Study objective: To determine whether spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1 can be managed without tracheostomy and to compare extubation outcomes using a respiratory muscle aid protocol vs conventional management.
Design: A retrospective cohort study.
Methods: Eleven SMA type 1 children were studied during episodes of respiratory failure. Nine children required multiple intubations. Along with standard treatments, these children received manually and mechanically assisted coughing to reverse airway mucus-associated decreases in oxyhemoglobin saturation. Extubation was not attempted until, most importantly, there was no oxygen requirement to maintain oxyhemoglobin saturation greater than 94%. After extubation, all patients received nasal ventilation with positive end-expiratory pressure. Successful extubation was defined by no need to reintubate during the current hospitalization.
Results: Two children have survived for 37 and 66 months and have never been intubated despite requiring 24-h nasal ventilation since 5 and 7 months of age, respectively. One other child underwent tracheostomy for persistent left lung collapse and inadequate home care, another for need for frequent readmission and intubation, and one child was lost to follow-up 3 months after successful extubation. The other six children have been managed at home for 15 to 59 (mean 30.4) months using nocturnal nasal ventilation after an episode of respiratory failure. The nine children were successfully extubated by our protocol 23 of 28 times. The same children managed conventionally were successfully extubated 2 of 20 times when not using this protocol (p < 0.001 by the two-tailed Fisher's Exact t Test).
Conclusion: Although intercurrent chest colds may necessitate periods of hospitalization and intubation, tracheostomy can be avoided throughout early childhood for some children with SMA type 1.