Chronic lung disease is a primary long-term complication among premature infants suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. These infants are at greater risk for pulmonary hypertension and impaired growth, and they also have a sharply increased risk of developing neurological problems.
A new study finds premature infants who have trouble breathing can benefit from treatment with inhaled nitric oxide.
Researchers from the University of Chicago tested the use of the gas in 207 premature infants during their first week of life. All were suffering from respiratory distress syndrome and were on mechanical ventilators to help them breathe. About half the babies were assigned to receive the active treatment, while the rest received a sham treatment. The treatment lasted for seven days.
Results showed the infants receiving nitric oxide fared significantly better than those receiving the sham treatment. About 48 percent of those in the nitric oxide group died or developed chronic lung disease, compared with about 64 percent in the sham group. Those receiving nitric oxide also had fewer episodes of severe bleeding or other severe blood-related problems.
The investigators conclude inhaled nitric oxide decreases the incidence of chronic lung disease and death in premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome.
However they say additional studies are required to further refine the treatment and determine which infants may benefit the most from inhaled nitric oxide.