Surfactant therapy for acute respiratory failure in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Crit Care. 2007;11(3):R66. doi: 10.1186/cc5944.


Introduction: Exogenous surfactant is used to treat acute respiratory failure in children, although the benefits and harms in this setting are not clear. The objective of the present systematic review is to assess the effect of exogenous pulmonary surfactant on all-cause mortality in children mechanically ventilated for acute respiratory failure.

Methods: We searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and Ovid Healthstar databases, the bibliographies of included trials and review articles, conference proceedings and trial registries. We included prospective, randomized, controlled trials of pulmonary surfactant that enrolled intubated and mechanically ventilated children with acute respiratory failure. We excluded trials that exclusively enrolled neonates or patients with asthma. Two reviewers independently rated trials for inclusion, extracted data and assessed the methodologic quality. We quantitatively pooled the results of trials, where suitable, using a random effects model.

Results: Six trials randomizing 314 patients were included. Surfactant use reduced mortality (relative risk = 0.7, 95% confidence interval = 0.4 to 0.97, P = 0.04), was associated with increased ventilator-free days (weighted mean difference = 2.5 days, 95% confidence interval = 0.3 to 4.6 days, P = 0.02) and reduced the duration of ventilation (weighted mean difference = 2.3 days, 95% confidence interval = 0.1 to 4.4 days, P = 0.04).

Conclusion: Surfactant use decreased mortality, was associated with more ventilator-free days and reduced the duration of ventilation. No serious adverse events were reported.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use*
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / mortality*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Pulmonary Surfactants