Omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) exposure can be associated with reduced neonatal morbidities. We systematically review the evidence for the benefits of omega-3 LCPUFAs for reducing neonatal morbidities in extremely preterm infants.

METHODS: Data sources were PubMed, Embase, Center for Reviews and Dissemination, and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials. Original studies were selected that included infants born at <29 weeks' gestation, those published until May 2013, and those that evaluated the relationship between omega-3 LCPUFA supplementation and major adverse neonatal outcomes. Data were extracted on study design and outcome. Effect estimates were pooled.

RESULTS: Of the 1876 studies identified, 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 6 observational studies met the defined criteria. No RCT specifically targeted a population of extremely preterm infants. Based on RCTs, omega-3 LCPUFA was not associated with a decreased risk of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infants overall (pooled risk ratio [RR] 0.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.82-1.13], 12 studies, n = 2809 infants); however, when considering RCTs that include only infants born at ≤32 weeks' gestation, a trend toward a reduction in the risk of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (pooled RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.74-1.05, 7 studies, n = 1156 infants) and a reduction in the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (pooled RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.23-1.10, 5 studies, n = 900 infants) was observed with LCPUFA.

CONCLUSIONS: Large-scale interventional studies are required to determine the clinical benefits of omega-3 LCPUFA, specifically in extremely preterm infants, during the neonatal period.