Core concepts: Respiratory distress syndrome

Jamie B. Warren, Jo Dee M. Anderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Scopus citations


    Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is seen primarily in the preterm neonate and is due mostly to pulmonary surfactant deficiency. Lung atelectasis leads to ventilation-perfusion mismatching, hypoxia, and eventual respiratory failure in the untreated infant who has RDS. RDS is diagnosed by physical findings consistent with respiratory distress and characteristic radiographic findings. Treatment of RDS begins antenatally with the administration of maternal steroids to women at risk of preterm delivery between 24 and 34 weeks' gestation. The use of repeat doses of antenatal steroids is under investigation but is currently not recommended outside of randomized, controlled trials. SRT has been approved for use since 1990 and has been successful in decreasing rates of RDS. Natural surfactant is currently recommended for use, but synthetic surfactant that contains proteins to mimic surfactant proteins is being investigated. In general, prophylactic use of surfactant is recommended over rescue treatment in infants at high risk for developing RDS, but the determination of which infants are at high risk for developing RDS remains a clinical one. The push toward use of less invasive ventilation strategies in the treatment of RDS has led to several trials of nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP). Results of the SUPPORT trial are pending, but the COIN trial has concluded that nCPAP use in infants who have RDS is not detrimental. Inhaled nitric oxide for RDS still requires investigation on safety and efficacy. Several other treatments have been studied, but as of yet, only inositol administration shows promise in the treatment of RDS. Several complications of the recommended treatments for RDS have been identified, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. Finally, there remains a need for long-term follow-up studies on preterm infants treated for RDS to assess neurodevelopmental outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)e351-e361
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - 2009

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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