Objective: The neonatal regional tertiary care center of the University of Vienna (VC) has been a member of the Vermont Oxford Neonatal Network (VONN) since 1994. During the period 1994--2002, important differences between the VC and the VONN in both pre- and postnatal management and in late morbidities such as chronic lung disease (CLD) and severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) were observed. We hypothesize that stabilization of very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants on nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) immediately after birth, combined with a restrictive use of artificial ventilation, might be responsible for lower rates of CLD and ROP.
Patients and methods: Obstetric and neonatal data for all 1299 VLBW infants (401-1500 g) from the VC were compared with corresponding data for the 201,167 VLBW infants from the VONN for the period 1994--2002 with regard to respiratory management and patient outcome. Morbidity criteria were in accordance with VONN definitions.
Results: The percentage range for treatment and morbidity criteria for the VC and VONN are related to differences among various years within the observation period. Infants were stabilized at birth on NCPAP in 45-86% of cases in the VC vs. 37-63% in the VONN, the rate of mechanical ventilation was 40-59% vs. 66-74%, and use of surfactant was 31-50% vs. 55-64%. CLD was diagnosed in 14-32% of cases in the VC vs. 27-39% in the VONN, discharge on supplemental oxygen took place in 2-4% vs. 12-17% of cases and ROP (stages III and IV) was found in 1-10% vs. 8-12%.
Conclusion: The association of lower rates of CLD and ROP in the VC compared to the VONN might be related to differences in early respiratory management of VLBW infants at high risk of development of respiratory distress syndrome. This needs to be confirmed in a large multicenter trial.