Contrary to an earlier finding, inhaled nitric oxide therapy (a treatment for lung problems in premature infants) does not reduce the infants chances for death or further lung problems, according to a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. The study appears in the July 7 New England Journal of Medicine.
Premature infants weighing less than 1500 grams should not receive inhaled nitric oxide therapy unless they are part of a research study, said NICHD Director Duane Alexander, M.D.
Inhaled nitric oxide therapy is effective for treating full term infants with lung complications. In term infants, whose lungs are fully formed, these complications typically result from lung infection. For the treatment, nitric oxide gas is mixed with oxygen and given to an infant through a breathing apparatus. The treatment makes the blood vessels in the lung tissue relax, allowing the lungs to absorb oxygen more easily.
Because the treatment works well for term infants, researchers had been interested in its possible use to treat lung complications in preterm infants. Earlier research in preterm infants treated with inhaled nitric oxide therapy showed varied results.
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