Lung development and function in preterm infants in the surfactant treatment era

Annu Rev Physiol. 2000;62:825-46. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.62.1.825.


Mortality of infants of < 1-kg birth weight has decreased because of surfactant treatments, antenatal glucocorticoid treatments, and new ventilation strategies. However, many of these infants develop a chronic lung disease characterized by an arrest of lung development and interference with alveolarization. Antenatal glucocorticoids can induce early lung maturation clinically, but new information from transgenic and other experimental models indicates that traditional explanations for glucocorticoid effects on the developing lung are inadequate. These very preterm infants have lungs with small lung gas volumes and delicate lung tissue that are susceptible to injury with the initiation of ventilation and subsequent ventilation. Antenatal proinflammatory exposures are frequent in very preterm infants, and postnatal injury is associated with elevations of proinflammatory cytokines in the lungs. One hypothesis is that proinflammatory cytokines can promote or interfere with lung development as well as promote lung injury. Mechanisms of lung injury being characterized in the adult lung may have unique characteristics in the developing lung.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Lung / embryology
  • Lung / growth & development*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Pulmonary Surfactants