Infantile haemangiomas are the most common tumour of infancy. Whilst the majority are left untreated to involute spontaneously, residual skin changes commonly occur, particularly in superficial haemangiomas.
The current first-line treatment for problematic lesions is oral propranolol; however due to the risk of systemic adverse effects, the use of off-label topical preparations has recently been investigated.
Our systematic review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Four databases were searched to identify original articles evaluating the use of topical propranolol as the primary therapy for infantile haemangiomas.
Twelve articles with a total of 597 patients and 632 haemangiomas were included.
Three topical propranolol preparations were used, creams, ointments and gels and were all prepared by local pharmaceutical laboratories. The concentration of propranolol ranged from 0.5% to 5%.
Treatment duration ranged from two weeks to 16.5 months. Overall, 90% of lesions improved following the initiation of topical propranolol.
A good or excellent response, defined as a reduction in the size of at least 50%, was seen in 59% of lesions. Earlier initiation of treatment (less than 3 months of age) was associated with improved outcomes.
No systemic adverse effects were reported. Minor local reactions were seen in 1.3% of patients.
Topical propranolol is safer than oral propranolol, though may be less effective.
Topical propranolol may be more suitable for patients with small, superficial haemangiomas at risk of cosmetic sequelae, where the cosmetic or symptomatic impact does not warrant oral propranolol treatment.