The role of surfactant and non-invasive mechanical ventilation in early management of respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants

World J Pediatr. 2014 Aug;10(3):204-10. doi: 10.1007/s12519-014-0494-9. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Background: Surfactant replacement therapy has been used for few decades for the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and has significantly improved morbidity and mortality in premature infants. Non-invasive respiratory support has recently emerged as a strategy in the early management of RDS. In this review, we discuss the different strategies of early management of RDS.

Data sources: A literature search of PubMed database was conducted to review the subject. The quality of evidence of key clinical studies was graded according to a modified grading system of the international GRADE group.

Results: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) with selective surfactant is a safe alternative to routine intubation, surfactant and mechanical ventilation in preterm infants with spontaneous breathing, and such an approach has been associated with decreased risk of death and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. There is a risk of pneumothorax when using a high pressure of CPAP (≥8 cm of H2O), a high partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2 >75 mm of Hg), and a high fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2 >0.6) as a threshold for intubation while on CPAP.

Conclusion: Not all preterm infants need surfactant treatment, and non-invasive respiratory support is a safe and effective approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure* / adverse effects
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure* / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Pulmonary Surfactants

Supplementary concepts

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome In Premature Infants