Southampton study aims to reduce preterm babies' need for artificial breathing support

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A new study aims to see if a new way of topping up the lungs’ natural lubricant can reduce dependency on artificial ventilation in preterm babies with a type of breathing difficulty.

Southampton neonatologist Dr Kevin Goss is leading the CuroNEB study at Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, looking into new treatments for premature babies with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).

Babies born early are particularly susceptible to RDS, as their lungs may not be fully developed and so are unable to produce enough surfactant - a liquid which coats the insides of the lungs.

Without enough surfactant in their lungs, babies with RDS struggle to breathe properly and may not get enough oxygen to support their organs, which can in serious cases cause long-term damage.

Currently, babies with RDS are put on a mechanical ventilator and given surfactant through a tube into their lungs, but recent evidence suggests that avoiding a ventilator may be better for their long term health.

This study will trial an alternative way of administering surfactant to these babies, to see if mid to low risk preterm babies with RDS can be effectively treated without being put on a ventilator.

A new approach

The researchers are looking for babies born between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy at Princess Anne Hospital to take part. The parents of those who develop RDS will be invited to involve their babies in the study.

The study will compare standard care against giving normal or high doses of the surfactant Curosurf® in tiny airborne droplets through a mask. This will be combined with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP), which allows the baby to continue to breathe naturally with extra support.

This would avoid the use of a ventilator – which effectively ‘breathes’ for the patient by pushing air in and out of their lungs – to deliver the surfactant unless it is really needed. The most high risk babies, born before 28 weeks, will continue to be given ventilator support.

Dr Kevin Goss, consultant neonatologist and study lead in Southampton, said: “This study is very important, because it will hopefully mean that newborns with RDS will no longer need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator, which could have lifelong benefits for these children.”

Posted on Friday 8 November 2019