, Volume 166, Issue 9, pp 889-899,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 22 May 2007

What’s new in surfactant?


Surfactant therapy has significantly changed clinical practice in neonatology over the last 25 years. Recent trials in infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) have not shown superiority of any natural surfactant over another. Advancements in the development of synthetic surfactants are promising, yet to date none has been shown to be superior to natural preparations. Ideally, surfactant would be administered without requiring mechanical ventilation. An increasing number of studies investigate the roles of alternative modes of administration and the use of nasal continuous positive airway pressure to minimise the need for mechanical ventilation. Whether children with other lung diseases benefit from surfactant therapy is less clear. Evidence suggests that infants with meconium aspiration syndrome and children with acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome may benefit, while no positive effect of surfactant is seen in infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. However, more research is needed to establish potential beneficial effects of surfactant administration in children with lung diseases other than RDS. Furthermore, genetic disorders of surfactant metabolism have recently been linked to respiratory diseases of formerly unknown origin. It is important to consider these disorders in the differential diagnosis of unexplained respiratory distress although no established treatment is yet available besides lung transplantation for the most severe cases. Conclusion: Research around surfactant is evolving and recent developments include further evolution of synthetic surfactants, evaluation of surfactant as a therapeutic option in lung diseases other than RDS and the discovery of genetic disorders of surfactant metabolism. Ongoing research is essential to continue to improve therapeutic prospects for children with serious respiratory disease involving disturbances in surfactant.

Funding: Jasper Been is supported by a Profileringsfonds grant from the Maastricht University Hospital.