Background: Respiratory support in very preterm infants is often a life-saving procedure and several techniques are available. There is lack of data on the current use of these techniques. METHODS AND AIM: We analyzed a cohort of infants <30 weeks gestation or < 1501 g birth weight, enrolled in the Italian Neonatal Network in 2009 and 2010 (n = 8297, mean gestation = 29.3 weeks, mean birth weight = 1089 g) to ascertain the use of several techniques. We also conducted a questionnaire survey of all neonatal units adhering to the Italian Neonatal Network, inquiring about preferred methods of respiratory support.
Results: Conventional ventilation was used in 53% of these infants, high frequency ventilation in 15.8%, CPAP in 71.6%, and surfactant in 56.2%. Huge variations were observed between hospitals for all techniques studied. The survey of centres showed that all respondents considered non-invasive ventilation the first-intention treatment for these infants. In case of need of tracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation, two hospitals said they used IPPV/IMV; 20 synchronized IPPV/IMV; 25 "volume guarantee"; and 10 hospitals used HFV as a first intention treatment (in five hospital for all infants, and in other five hospitals, depending upon birth weight/gestation.
Conclusions: This study provides large scale, up to date results of the current methods of respiratory support in very preterm infants in Italy. Huge variations between hospitals, only partly explained by the paucity of evidence-based data, are apparent. These differences point to the possibility of implementing "potentially better practices" with the aim of reducing unwanted, physician-related variation.