High frequency oscillation (HFO) as rescue treatment for preterm infants with severe respiratory failure has been assessed and prognostic factors identified. Thirty six infants with a median gestational age of 27 weeks were studied. Immediately before transfer to HFO, the infants were receiving an inspired oxygen concentration of > or = 85% and/or a mean airway pressure of > or = 12 cm H2O and had a median alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient (A-aDO2) of 73.28 kPa (range 49.34-89.91). Seventeen infants subsequently died. Comparison of those 17 with the remaining 19 infants demonstrated that respiratory distress syndrome and persistent fetal circulation were associated with a significantly better outcome than pulmonary airleak. The A-aDO2 after two and six hours on HFO was significantly higher in those infants who survived compared with those who died. We conclude that a diagnosis of pulmonary airleak and failure to show early improvement in respiratory status indicate a poor prognosis when HFO is used as rescue treatment.
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