Barrington KJ, Finer N, Pennaforte T, Altit G. Nitric oxide for respiratory failure in infants born at or near term. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000399. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000399.pub3
Review question: Is inhaled nitric oxide gas, in addition to standard therapy, beneficial for babies born at full term who have lung disease leading to low levels of oxygen in the blood? Specifically, does it reduce the death rate or the number of babies who require highly invasive ECMO treatment?
Background: Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that relaxes blood vessels and is active in the lungs when mixed with the gases that a patient is breathing.
Study characteristics: In a search updated to February 2016, review authors identified a total of 17 studies for inclusion in the review. Most of the results reported in this review were obtained from 10 studies of moderate to high quality, which compared inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) versus standard therapy without iNO. Six studies compared iNO started when babies were less sick against waiting to see if they deteriorated, then treating them later. These studies were smaller, and only one was a high-quality trial.
Key results: Inhaled nitric oxide is safe and can help some full-term babies with respiratory failure who have not responded to other methods of support. Inhaled nitric oxide increases levels of oxygen in babies’ blood, and babies are more likely to survive without needing ECMO, a highly invasive therapy with many complications. Unfortunately, benefits of iNO are not clear in babies whose respiratory failure is due to a diaphragmatic hernia. Inhaled nitric oxide has shown no short-term or long-term adverse effects. No signs suggest that iNO given earlier is more beneficial or results in more babies treated, and the number who die or who need ECMO is not significantly reduced.
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