Efficacy of systemic propranolol for severe infantile haemangioma of the orbit and eyelid: a case study of eight patients

F Thoumazet, C Léauté-Labrèze, J Colin, B Mortemousque
British Journal of Ophthalmology 2012, 96 (3): 370-4

AIM: To assess the efficacy of systemic propranolol for severe capillary haemangiomas involving eyelid and orbit.

METHOD: This was a longitudinal retrospective study that began in November 2007, involving eight children with disfiguring orbit and eyelid capillary haemangioma who received oral propranolol therapy. Three patients with life-threatening haemangiomas spreading to the orbit were first treated with systemic corticosteroids and beta-adrenergenic blocking agents. The remaining five patients with functional visual impairment received propranolol only. All children were given propranolol at a dose of 2 mg/kg body weight per day. The treatment was initiated between 2 and 36 months of age, with a follow-up period ranging from 6 to 30 months. Beta-blocking agents were used for 3-10 months.

RESULTS: We observed a successful 100% regression: that is, clinical regression by flattening 24 h after the start of treatment, regression on colour Doppler ultrasound imaging with an increase in resistance index of blood vessels, or regression seen on MRI. No re-growth was observed after the trial ended.

CONCLUSION: Despite their self-limiting course, infantile orbital and eyelid haemangiomas can cause visual impairment or disfigurement. Corticosteroids are used as first-line therapeutic agents for problematic infantile haemangiomas. Other options include interferon-α and vincristine, which present problematic side effects. In our series, propranolol was shown to inhibit haemangioma tumour growth with a better benefit/risk ratio. In the absence of any randomised study comparing the effects of systemic corticosteroids and propranolol, we propose that beta-blockers could be used as first-line therapy for severe periocular haemangiomas.

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