Continuous positive airway pressure and conventional mechanical ventilation in the treatment of meconium aspiration syndrome

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Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) is a complex syndrome that ranges in severity from mild respiratory distress to severe respiratory failure, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn and sometimes death. Understanding of the syndrome's complicated pathophysiology will help determine the appropriate treatment strategy, including the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), conventional mechanical ventilation (CMV) and other therapies. Approximately 30 to 50% of infants diagnosed with MAS will require CPAP or mechanical ventilation. The optimum modes of ventilation for MAS are not known. Very few studies have been conducted to determine ‘best’ ventilatory strategies. Despite the introduction, over the last two decades, of innovative ventilatory treatments for this disease (for example, surfactant, high-frequency ventilation, inhaled nitric oxide, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), the majority of infants can be successfully managed with CPAP or mechanical ventilation alone.

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