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Diagnosis and therapy of necrotizing tracheobronchitis in ventilated neonates

KIRPALANI, HARESH BM, MRCP(UK); HIGA, TOM MD, FRCP(C); PERLMAN, MAX MB, FRCP(C); FRIEDBERG, JACK MD, FRCP(C); CUTZ, ERNEST MD, FRCP(C)

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From January 1983 to September 1984 our neonatal ICU (NICU) treated eight endotracheally intubated infants who had suspected airway obstruction characterized by hypercarbia dissonant with severity of lung disease and difficulty in ventilation with lack of chest movement, both on conventional intermittent mandatory ventilation and high-frequency oscillation. Broncho-scopic removal of necrotic tissue was possible in six infants, two of whom survived. Bronchoscopy showed desquamation of epithelial surfaces, leaving encrusted exudations considered to be characteristic of necrotizing tracheobronchitis (NTB). The four nonsurvivors of bronchoscopy and one of the infants not submitted to bronchoscopy had NTB confirmed at autopsy. NTB was not associated with any specific lung disease, humidifier, or ventilator. The autopsy frequency of NTB during this period was 5 per 160 NICU admissions. A separate chart review of unselected autopsied cases in 1981 and 1982 showed that 12 of 284 neonates admitted to the NICU had NTB. NTB appears to be a rediscovered condition related to endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation using high mean airway pressures.

Division of Neonatology and Departments of Pathology and Otolaryngology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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