Background: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is relatively inexpensive and can be easily taught; it therefore has the potential to be the optimal respiratory support device for neonates in developing countries.
Objective: The possibility of implementing bubble CPAP in a teaching hospital with a large neonatology unit but very limited resources was investigated.
Methods: A CPAP system was developed consisting of a compressor, oxygen concentrator, water bottle to control the pressure and binasal prongs. Neonates with birthweights between 1 and 2·5 kg with persistent respiratory distress 4 hours after birth were eligible for bubble CPAP.
Results: In the 7-week introduction period from 11 March until 27 April 2008, 11 neonates were treated with CPAP. Five of these neonates met the inclusion criteria and six neonates did not meet these criteria. Of the five neonates who received CPAP and met the inclusion criteria, three survived. The six infants who did not meet the inclusion criteria included three preterm infants with apnoea (all died), two with birthweights <1 kg (both died) and a firstborn twin (1.2 kg) who survived. No major complications of CPAP occurred. Bubble CPAP could be used independently by nurses after a short training period.
Conclusion: Successful long-term implementation of CPAP depends on the availability of sufficient trained nursing staff.