Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat respiratory distress in newborns in low- and middle-income countries

Trop Doct. 2017 Jan;47(1):19-22. doi: 10.1177/0049475516630210. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Severe respiratory distress is a serious complication common to the three major causes of neonatal mortality and morbidity (prematurity, intra-partum-related hypoxia and infections). In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), 20% of babies presenting with severe respiratory distress die.Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), is an effective intervention for respiratory distress in newborns and widely used in high-income countries. Following the development of simple, safe and relatively inexpensive CPAP devices, there is potential for large-scale implementation in the developing world.In this article, we describe existing CPAP systems and present a review of the current literature examining the effectiveness of CPAP compared to standard care (oxygen) in newborns with respiratory distress. We also discuss the evidence gap which needs to be addressed prior to its integration into health systems in LMICs.

Keywords: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP); low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); newborns; respiratory distress.

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods*
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy*