Early surfactant administration with brief ventilation vs. selective surfactant and continued mechanical ventilation for preterm infants with or at risk for respiratory distress syndrome

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Oct 17;2007(4):CD003063. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003063.pub3.


Background: Both prophylactic and early surfactant replacement therapy reduce mortality and pulmonary complications in ventilated infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) compared with later selective surfactant administration. However, continued post-surfactant intubation and ventilation are risk factors for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). The purpose of this review was to compare outcomes between two strategies of surfactant administration in infants with RDS; prophylactic or early surfactant administration followed by prompt extubation, compared with later, selective use of surfactant followed by continued mechanical ventilation.

Objectives: To compare two treatment strategies in preterm infants with or at risk for RDS: early surfactant administration with brief mechanical ventilation (less than one hour) followed by extubation vs. later selective surfactant administration, continued mechanical ventilation, and extubation from low respiratory support. Two populations of infants receiving early surfactant were considered: spontaneously breathing infants with signs of RDS (who receive surfactant administration during evolution of RDS prior to requiring intubation for respiratory failure) and infants at high risk for RDS (who receive prophylactic surfactant administration within 15 minutes after birth).

Search strategy: Searches were made of the Oxford Database of Perinatal Trials, MEDLINE (1966 - December 2006), CINAHL (1982 to December Week 2, 2006), EMBASE (1980 - December 2006), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2006), Pediatric Research (1990 - 2006), abstracts, expert informants and hand searching. No language restrictions were applied.

Selection criteria: Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled clinical trials comparing early surfactant administration with planned brief mechanical ventilation (less than one hour) followed by extubation vs. selective surfactant administration continued mechanical ventilation, and extubation from low respiratory support.

Data collection and analysis: Data were sought regarding effects on the incidence of mechanical ventilation (ventilation continued or initiated beyond one hour after surfactant administration), incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), chronic lung disease (CLD), mortality, duration of mechanical ventilation, duration of hospitalization, duration of oxygen therapy, duration of respiratory support (including CPAP and nasal cannula), number of patients receiving surfactant, number of surfactant doses administered per patient, incidence of air leak syndromes (pulmonary interstitial emphysema, pneumothorax), patent ductus arteriosus requiring treatment, pulmonary hemorrhage, and other complications of prematurity. Stratified analysis was performed according to inspired oxygen threshold for early intubation and surfactant administration in the treatment group: inspired oxygen within lower (FiO2< 0.45) or higher (FiO2 > 0.45) range at study entry. Treatment effect was expressed as relative risk (RR) and risk difference (RD) for categorical variables, and weighted mean difference (WMD) for continuous variables.

Main results: Six randomized controlled clinical trials met selection criteria and were included in this review. In these studies of infants with signs and symptoms of RDS, intubation and early surfactant therapy followed by extubation to nasal CPAP (NCPAP) compared with later selective surfactant administration was associated with a lower incidence of mechanical ventilation [typical RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.57, 0.79], air leak syndromes [typical RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.28, 0.96] and BPD [typical RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.26, 0.99]. A larger proportion of infants in the early surfactant group received surfactant than in the selective surfactant group [typical RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.41, 1.86]. The number of surfactant doses per patient was significantly greater among patients randomized to the early surfactant group [WMD 0.57 doses per patient, 95% CI 0.44, 0.69]. In stratified analysis by FIO2 at study entry, a lower threshold for treatment (FIO2< 0.45) resulted in lower incidence of airleak [typical RR 0.46 and 95% CI 0.23, 0.93] and BPD [typical RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.20, 0.92]. A higher treatment threshold (FIO2 > 0.45) at study entry was associated with a higher incidence of patent ductus arteriosus requiring treatment [typical RR 2.15, 95% CI 1.09, 4.13].

Authors' conclusions: Early surfactant replacement therapy with extubation to NCPAP compared with later selective surfactant replacement and continued mechanical ventilation with extubation from low ventilator support is associated with less need mechanical ventilation, lower incidence of BPD and fewer air leak syndromes. A lower treatment threshold (FIO2< 0.45) confers greater advantage in reducing the incidences of airleak syndromes and BPD; moreover a higher treatment threshold (FIO2 at study > 0.45) was associated with increased risk of PDA. These data suggest that treatment with surfactant by transient intubation using a low treatment threshold (FIO2< 0.45) is preferable to later, selective surfactant therapy by transient intubation using a higher threshold for study entry (FIO2 > 0.45) or at the time of respiratory failure and initiation of mechanical ventilation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy*
  • Risk


  • Pulmonary Surfactants