Background: This section is under preparation and will be included in the next issue.
Objectives: To compare the effect of prophylactic surfactant administration to surfactant treatment of established respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants.
Search strategy: Searches were made of the Oxford Database of Perinatal Trials, Medline (MeSH terms: pulmonary surfactant; limits: age groups, newborn infants), previous reviews including cross-references, abstracts, conference and symposia proceedings, expert informants, and journal handsearching in the English language.
Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials which compared the effects of prophylactic surfactant administration to surfactant treatment of established respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants were included in the analysis.
Data collection and analysis: Data regarding clinical outcomes including the incidence of pneumothorax, pulmonary interstitial emphysema, patent ductus arteriosus, necrotizing enterocolitis, intraventricular hemorrhage (any grade and severe intraventricular hemorrhage), bronchopulmonary dysplasia, mortality, bronchopulmonary dysplasia or death, and retinopathy of prematurity were excerpted from the reports of the clinical trials by the reviewers. Data analysis was done in accordance with the standards of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group.
Main results: The majority of included studies noted an initial improvement in the respiratory status and a decrease in the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome in infants who received prophylactic surfactant. The meta-analysis supports a decrease in the incidence of pneumothorax, a decrease in the incidence of pulmonary interstitial emphysema, a decrease in the incidence of mortality and a decrease in the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia or death associated with prophylactic administration of surfactant. No significant untoward effects of prophylactic surfactant administration are noted.
Reviewer's conclusions: Prophylactic surfactant administration to infants judged to be at risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome (intubated infants less than 30-32 weeks gestation) has been demonstrated to improve clinical outcome. Infants who receive prophylactic surfactant have a decreased incidence of pneumothorax, a decreased incidence of pulmonary interstitial emphysema and a decreased incidence of mortality. However, it remains unclear exactly which criteria should be used to judge "at risk" infants who would require prophylactic surfactant administration.