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Pediatric Critical Care Medicine:
Invited Feature Reviews

Mechanical ventilatory support in infants with respiratory syncytial virus infection

Leclerc, F. MD; Scalfaro, P. MD; Noizet, O. MD; Thumerelle, C. MD; Dorkenoo, A. MD; Fourier, C. MD

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Objective: To present a review of current knowledge of the use of mechanical ventilatory support in the management of infants with respiratory failure secondary to infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Data Sources: MEDLINE and manual search for case reports and clinical trials that address management strategies for respiratory support of infants with RSV infection.

Data Extraction and Synthesis: Critical appraisal of reported epidemiologic and clinical data regarding risk factors, pathophysiology, and efficacy of respiratory therapy. There is an increasing number of hospital admissions for RSV infection with a variable proportion of infants who need mechanical ventilatory support. The mortality rate is estimated to be <1% in infants without preexisting respiratory or cardiac disorders vs. <5% in those with preexisting respiratory or cardiac disorders. Optimal ventilator settings need to be refined according to the dominant obstructive or restrictive pattern with the aim to avoid barovolutrauma. The role of noninvasive ventilation and additional therapies (heliox, β2 agonists, surfactant) is not conclusively established. The indications for high-frequency oscillatory ventilation with the possible adjunction of inhaled nitric oxide deserve further study. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation plays a minor role in severe cases that are refractory to conventional treatment.

Conclusions: Conventional ventilation strategies are usually adequate for treating infants with severe RSV infection. Particular attention must be paid to the dominant pathophysiologic mechanism in a given condition. Prospective trials are needed to validate alternative therapeutic options and to improve the outcome of the rare but most severe cases that are difficult to control.

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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