Elective high frequency ventilation compared to conventional mechanical ventilation in the early stabilization of infants with respiratory distress

Review question. Does the elective use of high frequency oscillatory ventilation as compared to conventional ventilation reduce lung damage and other complications associated with prematurity and assisted ventilation in preterm infants who are mechanically ventilated for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)?

Background. Respiratory failure due to lung immaturity is a major cause of deaths in preterm infants. Although the use of intermittent positive pressure ventilation in newborns with respiratory failure saves lives, its use is associated with lung injury and chronic lung disease. A newer form of ventilation called high frequency oscillatory ventilation has been shown in experimental studies to result in less lung injury.

Study characteristics. Nineteen eligible studies involving 4096 infants met our inclusion criteria.

Results. Insufficient evidence exists to support the routine use of high frequency oscillatory ventilation instead of conventional ventilation for preterm infants with lung disease who are given positive pressure ventilation. High frequency oscillatory ventilation is a way of providing artificial ventilation of the lungs that theoretically may produce less injury to the lungs and therefore reduce the rate of chronic lung disease. This review of the evidence from 19 randomised controlled trials showed that although a small protective effect towards the lungs can be seen, this moderate benefit is highly variable between studies and should be weighed against possible harm.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is evidence that the use of elective HFOV compared with CV results in a small reduction in the risk of CLD, but the evidence is weakened by the inconsistency of this effect across trials. Probably many factors, both related to the intervention itself as well as to the individual patient, interact in complex ways. In addition, the benefit could be counteracted by an increased risk of acute air leak. Adverse effects on short-term neurological outcomes have been observed in some studies but these effects are not significant overall. Most trials reporting long-term outcome have not identified any difference.

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Background: 

Respiratory failure due to lung immaturity is a major cause of mortality in preterm infants. Although the use of intermittent positive pressure ventilation (IPPV) in neonates with respiratory failure saves lives, its use is associated with lung injury and chronic lung disease. A newer form of ventilation called high frequency oscillatory ventilation has been shown in experimental studies to result in less lung injury.

Objectives: 

The objective of this review was to determine the effect of the elective use of high frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) as compared to conventional ventilation (CV) on the incidence of chronic lung disease (CLD), mortality and other complications associated with prematurity and assisted ventilation in preterm infants who were mechanically ventilated for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).

Search strategy: 

Searches were made of the Oxford Database of Perinatal Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, previous reviews including cross references, abstracts, conference and symposia proceedings; and from expert informants and handsearching of journals by The Cochrane Collaboration, mainly in the English language. The search was updated in January 2009 and again in November 2014.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials comparing HFOV and CV in preterm or low birth weight infants with pulmonary dysfunction, mainly due to RDS, who required assisted ventilation. Randomisation and commencement of treatment needed to be as soon as possible after the start of CV and usually in the first 12 hours of life.

Data collection and analysis: 

The methodological quality of each trial was independently reviewed by the review authors. The standard effect measures were relative risk (RR) and risk difference (RD). From 1/RD the number needed to benefit (NNTB) to produce one outcome was calculated. For all measures of effect, 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used. For interpretation of subgroup analyses, a P value for subgroup differences as well as the I2 statistic for between-subgroup heterogeneity were calculated. Meta-analysis was performed using both a fixed-effect and a random-effects model. Where heterogeneity was over 50%, the random-effects model RR was also reported.

Main results: 

Nineteen eligible studies involving 4096 infants were included. Meta-analysis comparing HFOV with CV revealed no evidence of effect on mortality at 28 to 30 days of age or at approximately term equivalent age. These results were consistent across studies and in subgroup analyses. The risk of CLD in survivors at term equivalent gestational age was significantly reduced with the use of HFOV but this effect was inconsistent across studies, even after the meta-analysis was restricted to studies that applied a high lung volume strategy with HFOV. Subgroup analysis by HFOV strategy showed a similar effect in trials with a more strict lung volume recruitment strategy, targeting a very low fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2), and trials with a less strict lung volume recruitment strategy and with a somewhat higher or unspecified target FiO2. Subgroup analyses by age at randomisation, routine surfactant use or not, type of high frequency ventilator (oscillator versus flow interrupter), inspiratory to expiratory (I:E) ratio of high frequency ventilator (1:1 versus 1:2) and CV strategy (lung protective or not) could not sufficiently explain the heterogeneity. Pulmonary air leaks, defined as gross air leaks or pulmonary interstitial emphysema, occurred more frequently in the HFOV group, whereas the risk of severe retinopathy of prematurity was significantly reduced.

Although in some studies an increased risk of severe grade intracranial haemorrhage and periventricular leukomalacia was found, the overall meta-analysis revealed no significant differences in effect between HFOV and CV. The short-term neurological morbidity with HFOV was only found in the subgroup of two trials not using a high volume strategy with HFOV. Most trials did not find a significant difference in long-term neurodevelopmental outcome, although one recent trial showed a significant reduction in the risk of cerebral palsy and poor mental development.

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