Treating Chronic Lung Disease in Preemies
By Stacie Overton, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Researchers across the country are studying a new therapy to reduce the incidence of chronic lung disease in premature babies.
Chronic lung disease is a general term for long-term respiratory problems in premature babies. It results from lung injury to newborns who require a mechanical ventilator and extra oxygen for breathing. The lungs of premature babies are fragile and easily damaged. With injury, the tissues inside the lungs become inflamed and can break down, causing scarring.
Carl Bose, M.D., from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, says: “The major morbidity in premature birth is chronic lung disease. We’ve struggled over many years to try to have an impact on this disease and try to lessen its frequency and have not been terribly successful.” He is participating in a research study, headed by John Kinsella, M.D., from Children’s Hospital in Denver, to determine the efficacy of inhaled nitric oxide in reducing chronic lung disease in premature babies. An early pilot study that looked at nitric oxide to save lives, showed the gas did not save lives, but among the survivors, there was lower incidence of chronic lung disease. Dr. Bose says, “There was some reason to believe that might have happened because of animal studies that showed inhaled nitric oxide cuts down lung inflammation so that sort of was the springboard to this larger study.”
Nitric oxide is a “cousin” of nitrous oxide, but it’s a slightly different molecular species. For this study, a very tiny amount of the gas is mixed with the inhaled gas that the baby receives with mechanical ventilation during the course of treatment. That small amount [of nitric oxide] enters the lungs along with all the other ventilating gases. So far, there have been no serious adverse effects associated with the treatment. Dr. Bose says this new treatment could have significant impact. He says, “First and foremost, I hope it’s safe and secondly, of course, I hope it’s efficacious, meaning that it diminishes the likelihood of chronic lung disease.”
The trial will enroll about 800 premature babies. So far, more than 470 have been enrolled at different sites participating across the country. Dr. Bose says, “We believe that if we can decrease the likelihood of chronic lung disease we’ll shorten hospitalization, we’ll decrease the likelihood of re-hospitalization during infancy, and improve developmental outcomes. Those are all lofty goals, but reachable I hope.”
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SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Carl Bose, M.D., from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Sept. 23, 2003