Non-invasive modes of respiratory support have been shown to be the preferable way of primary respiratory support of preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). The avoidance of invasive mechanical ventilation can be beneficial for preterm infants in reduction of morbidity and even mortality. However, it is well-established that some infants managed with non-invasive respiratory support from the outset have symptomatic RDS to a degree that warrants surfactant administration. Infants for whom non-invasive respiratory support ultimately fails are prone to adverse outcomes, occurring at a frequency on par with the group intubated primarily. This raises the question how to combine non-invasive respiratory support with surfactant therapy. Several methods of less or minimally invasive surfactant therapy have been developed to address the dilemma between avoidance of mechanical ventilation and administration of surfactant. This paper describes the different methods of less invasive surfactant application, reports the existing evidence from clinical studies, discusses the limitations of each of the methods and the open and future research questions.
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