Nitric Oxide Therapy Helps Some Premature Infants, Nov 17, 2006

One of the biggest problems in treating premature infants is that their tiny lungs simply aren't developed enough to nourish their bodies and brains with the oxygen they need.

Because of this, many premature infants end up on mechanical ventilation to assist their breathing. And two new studies suggest that adding nitric oxide to that ventilator therapy may reduce the risk of serious breathing problems and prevent brain injury in at least some premature infants.

"This is a very simple intervention -- blending a gas with the breathing machine -- that can have long-term benefits," said one of the studies' authors, Dr. Steven Abman. He is a professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Pediatric Heart Lung Center, and The Children's Hospital, in Denver.

Those benefits include reducing the risk of a common complication called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This lung disease occurs when babies are on mechanical ventilators for long periods or are given high levels of extra oxygen. About 10,000 babies in the United States develop BPD each year. BPD increases the risk of long-term lung problems, high blood pressure in the lungs and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as cerebral palsy and learning problems, according to the National Institutes of Health. Read more at

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