This post has the potential to be polarizing as sustained inflations while common as an approach after delivery in Europe has not been widely adopted in Canada and the United States.  Some time ago I wrote about sustained inflations and a reader commented that I should wait for the results of the The Sustained Aeration for Infant Lungs (SAIL) trial before forming a final opinion on whether this is a good strategy or not.  The previous blog post on this topic was Is It Time To Use Sustained Lung Inflation in NRP? and was followed by Is expired CO2 the key to making sustained inflation a standard in resuscitation?  The first post concluded that there was a concerning trend towards more IVH in those who received sustained inflations (SI) while the second showed both a reduction in BPD and duration of mechanical ventilation with this approach.  I suggested that maybe we were really onto something here and then I was asked to wait before coming to a conclusion until the SAIL trial was done.  Well that day has come.

The SAIL trial

This trial led by Dr. H. Kirpalani and involving 18 NICUs in 9 countries was a big endeavour.  The paper was just published and is entitled Effect of Sustained Inflations vs Intermittent Positive Pressure Ventilation on Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia or Death Among Extremely Preterm Infants The SAIL Randomized Clinical Trial.  The trial compared SI of 15 seconds at a peak pressure of 20 cmH2O, followed if needed by a second SI of 15 seconds
at a peak of 25 cmH2O to traditional PPV for infants who after initial 30 seconds of CPAP required further intervention to establish breathing.  These were provided via facemask or nasopharyngeal tune attached to a t-piece resuscitator.   In both groups after the initial intervention standard resuscitation steps were carried out.  The primary outcome was death or BPD at 36 weeks PMA.  A data safety monitoring board (DSMB) was formed as well and it is this group that became very important to the conclusions of the study and led to its early termination.  All infants were  23 weeks 0 days’ to 26 weeks 6 days’ GA. Before the study was terminated the final totals were 215 patients in the SI arm and 211 in the traditional PPV group.

The trial was stopped after the DSMB identified an excessive number of early deaths within 48 hours in the SI group.  The findings were “11 of 16 early deaths in the sustained inflation group vs 1 of 3 in the standard
resuscitation group were considered possibly related to allocation group”.  A number of these deaths occurred in the highest risk group of those born at 23-24 weeks but it was enough to stop recruitment.

With respect to the primary outcome the results showed no difference  between the two approaches.  In saying this however, if the study did not recruit enough patients as planned to demonstrate a difference one has to question whether the study had enough power to find a benefit.

To answer this question the authors performed a Bayesian Analysis to determine the probability that adding more patients would have led to a different conclusion.  That is to determine if they would have found a difference favouring SI.  In the end they found that their conclusions would not have changed.  Sustained inflations in infants from 23 weeks 0 days’ to 26 weeks 6 days’ GA do not confer a benefit and may be associated with a higher likelihood of death within 48 hours of birth.

What do we do with these results?

I think this is it.  I can’t see a research ethics board allowing another study at this point.  This by neonatal standards was a big study given the relative scarcity of infants at these gestational ages.  The fact that no difference was found in rates of death or survival with BPD for those at highest risk of these outcomes suggests to me that looking at older GA at birth will not produce different results.  Sustained inflation to establish FRC and initiate respiration was a good concept backed by animal research.  Moreover, clinical work out of Edmonton in recent years suggested potential benefits but with the publication of this study I suspect we will need as a neonatal community to look at other strategies to decrease rates of BPD.  Concerns over increased risk of death in my opinion mean this ship has SAILed,