Prolonged lung inflation for resuscitation of babies at birth

Review question

Does the use of prolonged (or sustained) lung inflation (> 1 second duration) rather than standard inflations (≤ 1 second) improve survival and other important outcomes among newly born babies receiving resuscitation at birth?


At birth, the lungs are filled with fluid which must be replaced by air for babies to breathe properly. Some babies have difficulty establishing effective breathing at birth, and one in every 20 to 30 babies receives help to do so. A variety of devices are used to help babies begin normal breathing. Some of these devices allow caregivers to give long (or sustained) inflations. These sustained inflations may help inflate the lungs and may keep the lungs inflated better than if they are not used.

Study characteristics

We collected and analysed all relevant studies to answer the review question and found 10 studies enrolling 1467 infants. In all studies, babies were born before the due date (from 23 to 36 weeks of gestational age). The sustained inflation lasted between 15 and 20 seconds at pressure between 20 and 30 cmH₂O. Most studies provided one or more additional sustained inflations in cases of poor clinical response, for example persistent low heart rate. We analysed one study (which included only nine babies) separately because researchers combined use of sustained or standard inflations with chest compressions, an additional intervention that might help babies begin normal breathing.

Key results

The included studies showed no important differences among babies who received sustained versus standard inflations in terms of mortality, rate of intubation during the first three days of life, or chronic lung disease. Babies receiving sustained inflation at birth may spend fewer days on mechanical ventilation. The results of several ongoing studies might help us to determine whether sustained inflations are beneficial or harmful. At present we cannot exclude small to moderate differences between the two treatments.

Quality of evidence

The quality of evidence is low to moderate because only a small number of studies have looked at this intervention, few babies were included in these studies and some studies could have been better designed.

How up to date is this review?

We searched for studies that had been published up to April 2019.

Authors' conclusions: 

Our meta-analysis of nine studies shows that sustained lung inflation without chest compression was not better than intermittent ventilation for reducing mortality in the delivery room (low-quality evidence ‒ GRADE) or during hospitalisation (moderate-quality evidence ‒ GRADE), which were the primary outcomes of this review. However, the single largest study, which was well conducted and had the greatest number of enrolled infants, was stopped early for higher mortality rate in the sustained inflation group. When considering secondary outcomes, such as rate of intubation, rate or duration of respiratory support, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia, we found no benefit of sustained inflation over intermittent ventilation (moderate-quality evidence ‒ GRADE). Duration of mechanical ventilation was shortened in the SLI group (low-quality evidence ‒ GRADE); this result should be interpreted cautiously, however, as it might have been influenced by study characteristics other than the intervention. There is no evidence to support the use of sustained inflation based on evidence from our review.

Read the full abstract...

At birth, infants' lungs are fluid-filled. For newborns to have a successful transition, this fluid must be replaced by air to enable gas exchange. Some infants are judged to have inadequate breathing at birth and are resuscitated with positive pressure ventilation (PPV). Giving prolonged (sustained) inflations at the start of PPV may help clear lung fluid and establish gas volume within the lungs.


To assess the benefits and harms of an initial sustained lung inflation (SLI) (> 1 second duration) versus standard inflations (≤ 1 second) in newborn infants receiving resuscitation with intermittent PPV.

Search strategy: 

We used the standard search strategy of Cochrane Neonatal to search the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2019, Issue 3), MEDLINE via PubMed (1966 to 1 April 2019), Embase (1980 to 1 April 2019), and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (1982 to 1 April 2019). We also searched clinical trials databases, conference proceedings, and the reference lists of retrieved articles to identify randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised trials.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs comparing initial sustained lung inflation (SLI) versus standard inflations given to infants receiving resuscitation with PPV at birth.

Data collection and analysis: 

We assessed the methodological quality of included trials using Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group (EPOC) criteria (assessing randomisation, blinding, loss to follow-up, and handling of outcome data). We evaluated treatment effects using a fixed-effect model with risk ratio (RR) for categorical data; and mean standard deviation (SD), and weighted mean difference (WMD) for continuous data. We used the GRADE approach to assess the quality of evidence.

Main results: 

Ten trials enrolling 1467 infants met our inclusion criteria. Investigators in nine trials (1458 infants) administered sustained inflation with no chest compressions. Use of sustained inflation had no impact on the primary outcomes of this review: mortality in the delivery room (typical RR 2.66, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.11 to 63.40 (I² not applicable); typical RD 0.00, 95% CI −0.02 to 0.02; I² = 0%; 5 studies, 479 participants); and mortality during hospitalisation (typical RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.43; I² = 42%; typical RD 0.01, 95% CI −0.02 to 0.04; I² = 24%; 9 studies, 1458 participants). The quality of the evidence was low for death in the delivery room because of limitations in study design and imprecision of estimates (only one death was recorded across studies). For death before discharge the quality was moderate: with longer follow-up there were more deaths (n = 143) but limitations in study design remained. Among secondary outcomes, duration of mechanical ventilation was shorter in the SLI group (mean difference (MD) −5.37 days, 95% CI −6.31 to −4.43; I² = 95%; 5 studies, 524 participants; low-quality evidence). Heterogeneity, statistical significance, and magnitude of effects of this outcome are largely influenced by a single study at high risk of bias: when this study was removed from the analysis, the size of the effect was reduced (MD −1.71 days, 95% CI −3.04 to −0.39; I² = 0%). Results revealed no differences in any of the other secondary outcomes (e.g. risk of endotracheal intubation outside the delivery room by 72 hours of age (typical RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.04; I² = 65%; 5 studies, 811 participants); risk of surfactant administration during hospital admission (typical RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.08; I² = 0%; 9 studies, 1458 participants); risk of chronic lung disease (typical RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.18; I² = 0%; 4 studies, 735 participants); pneumothorax (typical RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.40; I² = 34%; 8 studies, 1377 infants); or risk of patent ductus arteriosus requiring pharmacological treatment (typical RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.87 to 1.12; I² = 48%; 7 studies, 1127 infants). The quality of evidence for these secondary outcomes was moderate (limitations in study design ‒ GRADE) except for pneumothorax (low quality: limitations in study design and imprecision of estimates ‒ GRADE). We could not perform any meta-analysis in the comparison of the use of initial sustained inflation versus standard inflations in newborns receiving resuscitation with chest compressions because we identified only one trial for inclusion (a pilot study of nine preterm infants).