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Propranolol, a very promising treatment for ulceration in infantile hemangiomas: a study of 20 cases with matched historical controls.

BACKGROUND: Ulceration is a common but poorly understood complication of infantile hemangiomas (IH) that is difficult to control.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the possible role of monotherapy with propranolol for ulcerating IH.

METHODS: Propranolol was given to 20 patients with IH, who suffered from ulceration at the start of treatment (mean age at onset of treatment, 3.5 months; standard error of the mean: 0.4). After cardiac screening, propranolol was administered in a progressive schedule to 2 to 2.5 mg/kg per day, divided in 3 doses. Blood pressure, heart rate, and fasting glucose levels were monitored during the first 3 days in hospital and, in the absence of complications, treatment was continued at home until the age of approximately 1 year. The 20 propranolol-treated patients were matched to patients from a historical control group, seen before the 'propranolol era'. These matches were randomly made by using clinical pictures based on type, location and size of the IH, extent of ulceration, and age at the start of ulceration.

RESULTS: The time to complete healing from the onset of ulceration was significantly shorter for the propranolol-treated patients, compared with the control group (8.7 vs 22.4 weeks; t test: P < .015). In the propranolol group, a tendency to shorter ulceration duration was seen in patients starting propranolol at an earlier stage of disease.

LIMITATIONS: The study was limited by the partially retrospective design and the small number of patients.

CONCLUSION: Propranolol reduces the duration of ulceration in IH and seems to be more effective when started in an early phase. We propose propranolol as the treatment of first choice for ulcerating IH.

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