Nitric Oxide Helps Newborns With Respiratory Failure

It's a safer, less expensive treatment than heart/lung machine, study finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Treatment with inhaled nitric oxide is more effective, less expensive and less invasive than the traditional treatment for critically ill newborns who have a potentially fatal condition called hypoxic respiratory failure (HRF).

That's what University of Pittsburgh report in the Dec. 8 issue of Pediatrics.

HRF develops in newborns whose lungs cannot deliver enough oxygen to their bodies. The condition, which causes the newborns to appear bluish, often appears on the first day after birth and affects about 30,000 newborns in the United States each year.

There's no known way to prevent HRF or predict which infants will be affected by the condition.

For infants with HRF who don't respond to artificial ventilation and supplemental oxygen, the only effective treatment in the past was a surgical procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (EMCO). That involves cutting the newborn's jugular vein and putting the baby on a heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood.

However, EMCO is invasive and can cause severe complications.

Nitric oxide can be administered as an inhaled gas, has few potential complications and saves money compared to EMCO, according to this new study. Nitric oxide works by relaxing smooth-muscle cells in blood vessel walls in the lungs. That lets the lungs properly oxygenate the blood and provide it to the rest of the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 approved the use of nitric oxide for treatment of full-term and near-term newborns with HRF.

This study was supported in part by a grant from INO Therapeutics, which manufactures nitric oxide for inhalation.

More information

Here's more information on hypoxic respiratory failure.

SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, news release, Dec. 8, 2003
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