Surfactant is a cornerstone of neonatal critical care for the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome of preterm babies. However, other indications have been studied for various clinical conditions both in term neonates and in children beyond neonatal age. A high degree of evidence is not yet available in some cases and this is due to the complex and not yet totally understood physiopathology of the different types of pediatric and neonatal lung injury. We here summarise the state of the art of the bench and bedside knowledge about surfactant use for the respiratory conditions usually cared for in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. Future research direction will also be presented. On the whole, surfactant is able to improve oxygenation in infection related respiratory failure, pulmonary hemorrhage and meconium aspiration syndrome. Bronchoalveolar lavage with surfactant solution is currently the only means to reduce mortality or need for extracorporeal life support in neonates with meconium aspiration. While surfactant bolus or lavage only improves the oxygenation and ventilatory requirements in other types of postneonatal acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), there seems to be a reduction in the mortality of small infants with RSV-related ARDS.
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