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Surfactant status and respiratory outcome in premature infants receiving late surfactant treatment



Many premature infants with respiratory failure are deficient in surfactant, but the relationship to occurrence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is uncertain.


Tracheal aspirates were collected from 209 treated and control infants enrolled at 7-14 days in the Trial of Late Surfactant. The content of phospholipid, surfactant protein B, and total protein were determined in large aggregate (active) surfactant.


At 24 h, surfactant treatment transiently increased surfactant protein B content (70%, p < 0.01), but did not affect recovered airway surfactant or total protein/phospholipid. The level of recovered surfactant during dosing was directly associated with content of surfactant protein B (r = 0.50, p < 0.00001) and inversely related to total protein (r = 0.39, p < 0.0001). For all infants, occurrence of BPD was associated with lower levels of recovered large aggregate surfactant, higher protein content, and lower SP-B levels. Tracheal aspirates with lower amounts of recovered surfactant had an increased proportion of small vesicle (inactive) surfactant.


We conclude that many intubated premature infants are deficient in active surfactant, in part due to increased intra-alveolar metabolism, low SP-B content, and protein inhibition, and that the severity of this deficit is predictive of BPD. Late surfactant treatment at the frequency used did not provide a sustained increase in airway surfactant.

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