Invasive mechanical ventilation is a life-saving procedure which is largely used in neonatal intensive care units, particularly in very premature newborn infants.
However, this essential treatment may increase mortality and cause substantial morbidity, including lung or airway injuries, unplanned extubations, adverse hemodynamic effects, analgosedative dependency and severe infectious complications, such as ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Therefore, limiting the duration of airway intubation and mechanical ventilator support is crucial for the neonatologist, who should aim to a shorter process of discontinuing mechanical ventilation as well as an earlier appreciation of readiness for spontaneous breathing trials. Unfortunately, there is scarce information about the best ways to perform an effective weaning process in infants undergoing mechanical ventilation, thus in most cases the weaning course is still based upon the individual judgment of the attending clinician.
Nonetheless, some evidence indicate that volume targeted ventilation modes are more effective in reducing the duration of mechanical ventilation than traditional pressure limited ventilation modes, particularly in very preterm babies. Weaning and extubation directly from high frequency ventilation could be another option, even though its effectiveness, when compared to switching and subsequent weaning and extubating from conventional ventilation, is yet to be adequately investigated.
Some data suggest the use of weaning protocols could reduce the weaning time and duration of mechanical ventilation, but better designed prospective studies are still needed to confirm these preliminary observations.
Finally, the implementation of short spontaneous breathing tests in preterm infants has been shown to be beneficial in some centres, favoring an earlier extubation at higher ventilatory settings compared with historical controls, without worsening the extubation failure rate.
Further research is still required to identify the best practices capable to shorten the duration of mechanical ventilation in term and preterm infants, at the same time keeping to a minimum the risk of extubation failure.
Proceedings of the 9th International Workshop on Neonatology · Cagliari (Italy) · October 23rd-26th, 2013 · Learned lessons, changing practice and cutting-edge research