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Remifentanil for endotracheal intubation in neonates: a randomised controlled trial


Objective To evaluate the efficacy and safety of remifentanil as a premedication in neonates undergoing elective endotracheal intubation.

Design A double-blind randomised controlled trial.

Setting Tertiary care neonatal intensive care unit.

Patients Haemodynamically stable term and preterm neonates requiring elective endotracheal intubation.

Interventions Infants in the intervention arm received remifentanil (3 µg/kg) and normal saline placebo. The control group received fentanyl (2 µg/kg) and succinylcholine (2 mg/kg). Both groups also received atropine (20 µg/kg) as part of the premedication regime.

Main outcome measures The primary outcome was time to successful intubation. Secondary outcomes included time to return of spontaneous respirations, oxygen saturation, heart rate and blood pressure changes during the procedure, adverse events and a survey of intubation conditions.

Results A total of 15 infants were randomised to each group. Baseline characteristics were similar in both groups. The median time to successful intubation was not statistically different (247 s in the remifentanil group vs 156 s in the fentanyl group, p=0.88). The intubation conditions were rated more favourably with fentanyl by the intubators. Although not statistically significant, chest wall rigidity was observed more commonly with remifentanil.

Conclusions Although remifentanil is comparable to fentanyl and succinylcholine in attenuating adverse physiologic responses during neonatal intubation, muscle rigidity is a concern at doses of 3 µg/kg. Further trials are required to evaluate ideal dosing regimens and combinations of agents for use with remifentanil in neonates.

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