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The role of surfactant treatment in preterm infants and term newborns with acute respiratory distress syndrome

Abstract

Surfactant treatment in preterm infants and term newborns with (acute respiratory distress syndrome) ARDS-like severe respiratory failure has become part of an individualized treatment strategy in many intensive care units around the world. These babies constitute heterogeneous groups of gestational ages, lung maturity, as well as of the underlying disease processes and postnatal interventions. The pathophysiology of respiratory failure in preterm infants is characterized by a combination of primary surfactant deficiency and surfactant inactivation as a result of plasma proteins leaking into the airways from areas of epithelial disruption and injury. Various pre- and postnatal factors, such as exposure to chorioamnionitis, pneumonia, sepsis and asphyxia, induce an injurious inflammatory response in the lungs of preterm infants, which may subsequently affect surfactant function, synthesis and alveolar stability. Surfactant inactivation—and dysfunction—is also a hallmark in newborns with meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), pneumonia and other disorders affecting the pulmonary function. Although for the majority of suggested indications no data from randomized controlled trials exist, a surfactant replacement that counterbalances surfactant inactivation seems to improve oxygenation and lung function in many babies with ARDS without any apparent negative side effects. Newborns with MAS will definitely benefit from a reduced need for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Clinical experience seems to justify surfactant treatment in neonates with ARDS.

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Correspondence to C P Speer.

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Presented at the Fifth Annual Evidence vs Experience in Neonatal Practices meeting, June 2008, Chicago, Illinois.

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Wirbelauer, J., Speer, C. The role of surfactant treatment in preterm infants and term newborns with acute respiratory distress syndrome. J Perinatol 29 (Suppl 2), S18–S22 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/jp.2009.30

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/jp.2009.30

Keywords

  • preterm infants
  • newborns
  • respiratory failure
  • surfactant
  • ARDS

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