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Neonatology. 2011;99(4):355-66. doi: 10.1159/000326628. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Surfactant replacement therapy in developing countries.

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Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612., USA.



Since the first successful report of surfactant replacement therapy (SRT) in infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), numerous randomized clinical trials have shown that SRT reduces mortality and morbidity in RDS. Surfactant is now a standard therapy for RDS. However, the use of SRT in the developing world has been extremely slow.


The objective of this paper is to review the published information regarding the usage and barriers encountered in the use of SRT in developing countries.


We reviewed the available literature and also gathered information from countries with a high burden of prematurity and high infant mortality rate regarding replacement therapy and the barriers to use of SRT.


We reviewed the available literature and found that developing countries bear a high burden of prematurity and RDS that contribute to high neonatal and infant mortality rates. Based on the effectiveness of SRT in RDS, surfactant preparations were included in the Essential Drug List of WHO in 2008. However, the use of SRT in developing countries is still limited because of (1) high cost, (2) lack of skilled personnel to administer SRT, and (3) lack of support systems after the SRT. The cost of SRT may exceed the per-capita GNP (300-500 USD) in some countries. Data from India and South Africa suggests that SRT is limited to rescue therapy in babies with potential for better survival, usually >28 weeks' gestation. Recent studies show that infants with RDS respond well to initial continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) followed by SRT for those who do not respond.


In developing countries, CPAP may be used as the primary mode of management of RDS. SRT may be reserved for non-responders to CPAP. Alternate simpler methods of delivery of surfactant (aerosol technique) are also being explored. There is a need for further studies to develop and assess efficient and less expensive methods of application of CPAP and SRT in developing countries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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