Non-invasive ventilation for severe bronchiolitis: analysis and evidence

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2012 Sep;47(9):909-16. doi: 10.1002/ppul.22513. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Objectives: (1) To examine whether infants with severe bronchiolitis, fulfilling criteria for further respiratory support, could be managed outside a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with non-invasive ventilation (NIV) alone. (2) To study the characteristics, clinical course and outcome of NIV responders and non responders to assess safety and efficacy and inform guideline construction.

Hypothesis: Infants with severe bronchiolitis can be safely managed with NIV outside a PICU.

Study design: Retrospective case review.

Patient selection: Cohort of infants with objective evidence of severe bronchiolitis requiring respiratory support nursed in a Pediatric High Dependency Unit (PHDU) and/or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) between 2001 and 2007.

Methodology: Analysis of patient characteristics and respiratory parameters at admission and initiation of ventilation, changes after 2 and 4 hr of NIV or invasive ventilation, complications, short and long-term outcomes were analyzed.

Results: One thousand and thirty-five infants with bronchiolitis were admitted with 67 ventilation episodes identified from 65 patients. Fifty-five episodes, including 34 with apnea, were treated exclusively with NIV. Six infants failed to respond and were invasively ventilated. Six patients were invasively ventilated at presentation. Non-responders had a significantly higher rate of bacterial infection. Significant improvements in respiratory parameters in responders occurred by 2 hr and sustained at 4 hr. Duration of hospital stay, ventilation requirement and oxygen requirement were significantly shorter in responders. Short and longer-term follow up data did not identify any adverse effects related to NIV.

Conclusions: NIV was effective in 80% of infants receiving respiratory support for severe bronchiolitis.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchiolitis / complications
  • Bronchiolitis / therapy*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / complications
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / therapy*
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Noninvasive Ventilation / methods*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen