Background: Neonatal endotracheal intubation often involves more than one attempt, and oxygen desaturation is common. It is unclear whether nasal high-flow therapy, which extends the time to desaturation during elective intubation in children and adults receiving general anesthesia, can improve the likelihood of successful neonatal intubation on the first attempt.
Methods: We performed a randomized, controlled trial to compare nasal high-flow therapy with standard care (no nasal high-flow therapy or supplemental oxygen) in neonates undergoing oral endotracheal intubation at two Australian tertiary neonatal intensive care units. Randomization of intubations to the high-flow group or the standard-care group was stratified according to trial center, the use of premedication for intubation (yes or no), and postmenstrual age of the infant (≤28 or >28 weeks). The primary outcome was successful intubation on the first attempt without physiological instability (defined as an absolute decrease in the peripheral oxygen saturation of >20% from the preintubation baseline level or bradycardia with a heart rate of <100 beats per minute) in the infant.
Results: The primary intention-to-treat analysis included the outcomes of 251 intubations in 202 infants; 124 intubations were assigned to the high-flow group and 127 to the standard-care group. The infants had a median postmenstrual age of 27.9 weeks and a median weight of 920 g at the time of intubation. A successful intubation on the first attempt without physiological instability was achieved in 62 of 124 intubations (50.0%) in the high-flow group and in 40 of 127 intubations (31.5%) in the standard-care group (adjusted risk difference, 17.6 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.0 to 29.2), for a number needed to treat of 6 (95% CI, 4 to 17) for 1 infant to benefit. Successful intubation on the first attempt regardless of physiological stability was accomplished in 68.5% of the intubations in the high-flow group and in 54.3% of the intubations in the standard-care group (adjusted risk difference, 15.8 percentage points; 95% CI, 4.3 to 27.3).
Conclusions: Among infants undergoing endotracheal intubation at two Australian tertiary neonatal intensive care units, nasal high-flow therapy during the procedure improved the likelihood of successful intubation on the first attempt without physiological instability in the infant. (Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council; Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number, ACTRN12618001498280.).
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