Two findings from an NIH research network study provide new information on how much oxygen very preterm infants should receive starting on the first day of life and the most effective means to deliver it to them.
The first was that higher oxygen levels improve preterm infants' survival but increase the risk for a condition that can damage the retina.
The second was that a treatment typically used for adults with sleep apnea also is as effective as the traditional ventilator and surfactant therapy used to treat breathing difficulties in preterm infantsand may result in fewer complications. The treatment relies on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to blow air through a preterm infant's nostrils, to gently inflate the lungs.
These findings appear in two articles published online by The New England Journal of Medicine. The study results also will be presented on May 16 at the American Thoracic Society 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.
"Until the current study, CPAP had shown promise in treating respiratory distress in preterm infants, but had never been compared to ventilator therapy in this group of patients," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the NIH Institutes that provided infrastructure and funding for the study. "The study results indicate that CPAP is an effective initial alternative to ventilator therapy for very preterm infants of 24-27 weeks gestational age."
The study was conducted by the 20 academic medical centers participating in the NICHD's Neonatal Research Network. The study also received funding from the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The lead author of the article comparing oxygen saturation levels was Waldemar A. Carlo, M.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The lead author of the article comparing CPAP th
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NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development