Decreasing mortality associated with the introduction of surfactant therapy: an observational study of neonates weighing 601 to 1300 grams at birth. The Members of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network

Pediatrics. 1993 Aug;92(2):191-6.


Objective: To determine whether the introduction of surfactant therapy was associated with decreased mortality for high-risk preterm neonates weighing 601 to 1300 g at birth.

Design: Before-after observational study.

Setting: Eight tertiary care neonatal intensive care units participating in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network.

Patients: The outcomes for neonates with birth weight 601 to 1300 g admitted in the 2 years before surfactants became available (n = 2780) were compared with those of neonates admitted in the year beginning 2 months after surfactants became available (n = 1413).

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was in-hospital mortality; secondary outcome measures included durations of assisted ventilation, length of hospitalization, and neonatal morbidity.

Results: Forty percent of neonates in the postsurfactant group received surfactant (range 28% to 69% at the centers). Mortality decreased from 27.8% before to 19.9% after surfactant therapy was introduced (Mantel-Haenszel chi 2 = 31.4, P = .001). The adjusted odds ratio for mortality after surfactants became available was 0.73 (95% confidence interval 0.55 to 0.95). The duration of assisted ventilation and length of hospitalization increased after surfactants were introduced (P = .0001 for both outcomes).

Conclusion: Mortality for neonates weighing 601 to 1300 g decreased after surfactant therapy was introduced, suggesting that the efficacy of surfactants demonstrated in randomized controlled trials will translate into effectiveness in routine clinical care.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Pulmonary Surfactants