Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed doi:10.1136/adc.2009.179416
  • Original article

Nasal trauma due to continuous positive airway pressure in neonates

  1. Jean-François Tolsa1
  1. 1Division of Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics, Centre Hospitalier University Hospital of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. 2Paediatric Surgery, Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr J-F Tolsa, Division of Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital of Lausanne, CH-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland; Jean-Francois.Tolsa{at}
  • Accepted 7 May 2010
  • Published Online First 28 June 2010


Objective To evaluate the incidence and severity of nasal trauma secondary to nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) in neonates.

Design Prospective observational study.

Setting Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Patients All neonates admitted between January 2002 and December 2007 treated by nCPAP were eligible.

Methods Patients' noses were monitored during nCPAP. Nasal trauma was reported into three stages: (I) persistent erythema; (II) superficial ulceration; and (III) necrosis.

Results 989 neonates were enrolled. Mean gestational age was 34 weeks (SD 4), mean birth weight 2142 g (SD 840). Nasal trauma was reported in 420 (42.5%) patients and it was of stage I, II and III in 371 (88.3%), 46 (11%) and 3 (0.7%) patients, respectively. Incidence and severity of trauma were inversely correlated with gestational age and birth weight. The risk of nasal trauma was greater in neonates <32 weeks of gestational age (OR 2.48, 95% CI 1.59 to 3.86), weighing <1500 g at birth (OR 2.28, 95% CI 1.43 to 3.64), treated >5 days by nCPAP (OR 5.36, 95% CI 3.82 to 7.52), or staying >14 days in the NICU (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.28). Most cases of nasal trauma (90%) appeared during the first 6 days of nCPAP. Persistent visible scars were present in two cases.

Conclusions Nasal trauma is a frequent complication of nCPAP, especially in preterm neonates, but long-term cosmetic sequelae are very rare. This study provides a description of nasal trauma and proposes a simple staging system. This could serve as a basis to develop strategies of prevention and treatment of this iatrogenic event.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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