Predicting successful extubation of very low birthweight infants

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To determine the accuracy of three tests used to predict successful extubation of preterm infants.


Study design: Mechanically ventilated infants with birth weight <1250 g and considered ready for extubation were changed to endotracheal continuous positive airway pressure (ET CPAP) for three minutes. Tidal volumes, minute ventilation (V˙e), heart rate, and oxygen saturation were recorded before and during ET CPAP. Three tests of extubation success were evaluated: (a) expired V˙e during ET CPAP; (b) ratio of V˙e during ET CPAP to V˙e during mechanical ventilation (V˙e ratio); (c) the spontaneous breathing test (SBT)—the infant passed this test if there was no hypoxia or bradycardia during ET CPAP. The clinical team were blinded to the results, and all infants were extubated. Extubation failure was defined as reintubation within 72 hours of extubation.


Fifty infants were studied and extubated. Eleven (22%) were reintubated. The SBT was the most accurate of the three tests, with a sensitivity of 97% and specificity of 73% and a positive and negative predictive value for extubation success of 93% and 89% respectively.


The SBT used just before extubation of infants <1250 g may reduce the number of extubation failures. Further studies are required to establish whether the SBT can be used as the primary determinant of an infant’s readiness for extubation.

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