Cafcit (Caffeine Citrate) - Intravenous

What Is Cafcit?

Cafcit (caffeine citrate) is a clear, colorless prescription medication used to help treat apnea of prematurity. Apnea of prematurity is a condition affecting premature newborn infants that causes their breathing to stop for brief periods.

Cafcit is an airway (bronchial) smooth muscle relaxant, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, a heart muscle stimulant, and a diuretic. It enhances the activity of certain receptors in the peripheral nervous system involved in maintaining adequate oxygen in the body's bloodstream. This helps allow for normal breathing again.

Once it has been prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider, this medication is administered into a vein (intravenously) in a hospital setting.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Caffeine citrate

Brand Name(s): Cafcit

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Intravenous

Therapeutic Classification: CNS stimulant

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Caffeine citrate

Dosage Form(s): Solution

What Is Cafcit Used For?

Cafcit is used for the short-term treatment of apnea of prematurity in infants between 28 and 33 weeks of gestational age (a measure of a pregnancy's length).

Apnea of prematurity is when infants stop breathing for more than 15 to 20 seconds or stop breathing for less than 15 seconds and also have a decrease in heart rate or oxygenation.

Cafcit is also sometimes given to increase seizure activity in patients undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This is a common off-label use of the medication.

How to Take Cafcit

Cafcit is given in a hospital setting via intravenous (IV) administration.

What Are the Side Effects of Cafcit?

This is not a complete list of possible Cafcit side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on the side effects of taking this medication. If you experience other side effects, contact a provider. You may report side effects to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

As with all medications, there are possible side effects an infant might experience while they are receiving Cafcit.

Common and less severe side effects include:

  • Dry skin
  • Feeding problems
  • Skin rash

Severe Side Effects

Serious side effects with Cafcit are very rare, but can include:

Report Side Effects

Cafcit may cause other side effects. Notify your healthcare provider if your newborn experiences any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If the newborn experience a serious side effect, you or a healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Cafcit Should Be Taken?

Cafcit is given intravenously by a healthcare provider in a hospital. The provider will determine the proper dosage of this medication.

An initial dose can be given over a 30-minute period. After that, lower doses can be administered every 24 hours over 10-minute periods.


Caution should be used when giving Cafcit to infants with impaired kidney or liver function. A healthcare provider will carefully monitor them and adjust the dosage as needed.

Missed Dose

Cafcit injection is given in the hospital setting, so it is highly unlikely for a dose to be missed.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Cafcit?

Cafcit is administered by a healthcare provider in a hospital setting, so an overdose is unlikely to occur. However, too much Cafcit can have adverse effects. Possible signs of Cafcit overdose in preterm infants include:

  • Fever
  • Increased muscle tone (hypertonia)
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Jitteriness
  • Seizures
  • Rapid, shallow breathing (tachypnea)
  • Vomiting


Drug Content Provided by IBM Micromedex®

Your baby's doctor will check your baby's progress closely while your baby is receiving this medicine. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if your baby should continue to receive it.

Call your baby's doctor right away if your baby continues to have apnea.

Tell your baby's doctor right away if your baby has one of the following symptoms: faster heartbeat, increased diaper wetting, restlessness, jitteriness, or shaking.

Call your baby's doctor right away if your baby has the following symptoms: abdominal or stomach distension, vomiting, or bloody stools. These may be symptoms of a serious bowel or stomach problem.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Cafcit?

Cafcit should be avoided in patients with a known hypersensitivity to Cafcit or any of its ingredients.

What Other Medications Interact With Cafcit?

Taking Cafcit and Theo-24 (theophylline) together is not recommended.

Lower doses of Cafcit might be needed if it's taken with drugs that can decrease caffeine elimination from the body, such as cimetidine and ketoconazole. Higher doses might be needed if Cafcit is taken with drugs that increase how much caffeine is eliminated from the body, such as phenobarbital and Dilantin (phenytoin).

What Medications Are Similar?

Theophylline is also commonly used to treat apnea of prematurity. It works similarly to Cafcit, but it has been associated with higher rates of toxicity.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Cafcit used for?

    Cafcit is used for the treatment of apnea of prematurity in newborn infants 28 to 33 weeks gestational age. It helps restore normal breathing.

  • What are the side effects of Cafcit?

    The side effects of Cafcit in newborns include dry skin, feeding problems, and skin rash. More severe side effects are less common but include restlessness, jitteriness, shakiness, fast heart rate, and increased urination.

  • What drugs should not be taken with Cafcit?

    Theophylline and Cafcit are essentially the same medication. Both are used to treat apnea of prematurity. It is not recommended that these drugs be taken at the same time.

  • How is Cafcit administered?

    Cafcit is given in a vein (IV) by a healthcare provider in a hospital setting.

How to Stay Healthy While Taking Cafcit

Apnea of prematurity can be a scary diagnosis for new parents, but Cafcit is an effective and potentially life-saving treatment.

Apnea is a common problem for newborns, but most babies have favorable outcomes with treatment. For mild apnea, patting or rubbing your infant's skin can help stimulate breathing. Healthcare providers may suggest that you try changing the baby's position, slowing feed time, or providing oxygen or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help with breathing patterns.

Talk to your baby's healthcare team about any questions or concerns you have.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Zhao J, Gonzalez F, Mu D. Apnea of prematurity: from cause to treatment. Eur J Pediatr. 2011;170(9):1097-1105. doi: 10.1007/s00431-011-1409-6

  5. Pinkhasov A, Biglow M, Chandra S, Pica T. Pretreatment with caffeine citrate to increase seizure duration during electroconvulsive therapy: a case series. J Pharm Pract. 2016;29(2):177-180. doi:10.1177/0897190014549838

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By Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, CBC
Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, CBC, is a nurse and health journalist, as well as an adjunct clinical faculty member at hospitals in the Philadelphia area.