Pneumothorax in premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome: focus on risk factors

Sabina Terzic, Suada Heljic, Jovana Panic, Mirna Sadikovic, Hajrija Maksic


Introduction: Pneumothorax is a life threatening condition, more often seen in immature infants receiving mechanical ventilation. It carries a significant risk of death and impaired outcome.

Objective: To determine predictive factors for the occurrence of pneumothorax in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).

Patients and methods: The present study was conducted in a tertiary research and educational hospital, NICU, Pediatric Clinic UKC Sarajevo, from January 2010 to December 2013. All infants had chest X-ray at admission, and were treated due to RDS with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), mechanical ventilation, or high frequency oscillatory ventilation. At admission we registered data regarding birth weight, gestational age, Apgar score, prenatally given steroids. Inclusion criteria were fulfilled by 417 infants. Data about timing, circumstances, side and treatment of pneumothorax were gathered from medical records.

Results: Mean birth weight was 1,477 g, mean gestational age 29.6 weeks. We report 98 infants who did not survive. We also report incidence of pneumothorax in 5% of the infants with RDS. In this study pneumothorax and non-pneumothorax groups didn’t differ regarding sex, gestational age (median 29 and 30) nor birth weight (p = 0.818). Apgar score at the 1st and 5th minute of life had no influence in genesis of pulmonary air leak, neither prenatally given steroids (p = 0.639), nor surfactant administration. There was a low coverage of preterm infants with prenatal steroids (overall 28.29%). We found that FiO2 ≥ 0.4 in the first 12 hours of life, and need for mechanical ventilation are predicting factors for developing pneumothorax (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Together with mechanical ventilation, inspired fraction of oxygen higher than 40%, needed to provide adequate oxygenation in the first 12 hours of life in preterm infants, could be a predictive factor in selecting the highest risk babies for development of neonatal pneumothorax.


preterm infant; respiratory distress syndrome; pneumothorax; risk factors

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