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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Dec;209(6):551.e1-551.e18. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.07.022. Epub 2013 Jul 24.

Transdermal nitroglycerin for the treatment of preterm labor: a systematic review and metaanalysis.

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Perinatology Research Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD, and Detroit, MI.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of transdermal nitroglycerin as a tocolytic agent in women with preterm labor.


We conducted a systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials.


Thirteen studies were included (1302 women) comparing transdermal nitroglycerin vs placebo (2 studies; n = 186); β2-adrenergic receptor agonists (9 studies; n = 1024); nifedipine (1 study; n = 50); and magnesium sulfate (1 study; n = 42). There were no significant differences between transdermal nitroglycerin and placebo for delivery within 48 hours of the initiation of treatment or at <28, <34, or <37 weeks of gestation, adverse neonatal outcomes, and neurodevelopmental status at 24 months of life. Nevertheless, 1 study found a marginally significant reduction in the risk of a composite outcome of major neonatal morbidity and perinatal death (3/74 [4.1%] vs 11/79 [13.9%]; relative risk, 0.29; 95% confidence interval, 0.08-1.00). When compared with β2-adrenergic receptor agonists, transdermal nitroglycerin was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of preterm birth at <34 and <37 weeks of gestation, admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, use of mechanical ventilation, and maternal side effects. There were no significant differences between transdermal nitroglycerin and nifedipine and magnesium sulfate in delivery within 48 hours of treatment and pregnancy prolongation, respectively. Overall, women who received transdermal nitroglycerin had a higher risk of headache.


Although transdermal nitroglycerin appears to be more effective than β2-adrenergic receptor agonists, the current evidence does not support its routine use as a tocolytic agent for the treatment of preterm labor. Further double-blind placebo-controlled trials are needed.


magnesium sulfate; neonatal morbidity; nifedipine; nitric-oxide donor; preterm birth; tocolytic agent; β(2)-adrenergic receptor agonist

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