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Early surfactant administration with brief ventilation vs selective surfactant and continued mechanical ventilation for preterm infants with or at risk for RDS.

BACKGROUND: Both early and prophylactic surfactant replacement therapy compared with later selective surfactant administration reduces mortality and pulmonary complications in ventilated infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Continuous distending pressure (CDP) has also been shown to improve clinical outcomes in preterm infants with RDS.

OBJECTIVES: To compare two treatment strategies in preterm infants with, or at risk for, RDS: early surfactant administration with brief mechanical ventilation (less than 1 hour) followed by extubation, vs later, selective surfactant administration, continued mechanical ventilation and extubation from low respiratory support. Two populations of infants receiving early surfactant were considered: spontaneously breathing infants with signs of RDS (surfactant administration during evolution of RDS prior to requiring intubation for respiratory failure) and infants at high risk for RDS (prophylactic surfactant administration within 15 minutes after birth).

SEARCH STRATEGY: Searches were made of the Oxford Database of Perinatal trials, MEDLINE (1966-December 2001), CINAHL (1982-December 2001), EMBASE (1980-December 2001), Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002), Pediatric Research (1990-2001), abstracts, expert informants and hand searching. No language restrictions were applied.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled clinical trials comparing early surfactant administration with planned brief mechanical ventilation (less than one hour) followed by extubation, vs selective surfactant administration, continued mechanical ventilation and extubation from low respiratory support.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were sought regarding effects on incidence of mechanical ventilation (ventilation continued or initiated beyond one hour after surfactant administration), incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD, need for oxygen at 28 days of age), incidence of chronic lung disease (CLD, need for oxygen at 36 weeks' post-conceptional age), mortality (neonatal mortality < 28 days and mortality prior to hospital discharge), duration of mechanical ventilation, duration of hospitalization, time in oxygen, duration of respiratory support (including CPAP and nasal cannula), number of patients receiving surfactant, number of surfactant doses administered per patient, incidence of air leak syndromes (pulmonary interstitial emphysema, pneumothorax), incidence of pulmonary hemorrhage, and other complications of prematurity. Data analyses were performed in accordance with the standards of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group.

MAIN RESULTS: Only one randomized controlled clinical trial met selection criteria and was included in this review (Verder 1994). In this study of infants with signs of RDS, intubation and early surfactant therapy followed by extubation to nasal CPAP (NCPAP) compared with later, selective surfactant administration was associated with a lower incidence of mechanical ventilation (ventilation continuing for one hour or more after surfactant administration in the early surfactant group or initiated for respiratory insufficiency or apnea in either group [RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.32, 0.76]). A larger proportion of infants in the early surfactant group received surfactant than in the selective surfactant group [RR 1.74, 95% CI 1.30, 2.33]. The number of surfactant doses per patient was significantly greater among patients randomized to the early surfactant group [MD 0.51, 95% CI 0.32, 0.70]. Trends towards a decreased incidence of mortality, and a higher rate of patent ductus arteriosus requiring treatment were seen in the early surfactant group. There was no evidence of effect on median time in oxygen, duration of mechanical ventilation, or incidence of BPD (oxygen at 28 days).

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Early surfactant replacement therapy with extubation to NCPAP compared with later, selective surfactant replacement and continued mechanical ventilation with extubation from low ventilator support is associated with a reduced need for mechanical ventilation and increased utilization of exogenous surfactant therapy. These conclusions are based on findings from one small randomized clinical trial. Additional randomized trials are needed and are underway.

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