Rapid Sequence Induction is Superior to Morphine for Intubation of Preterm Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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To compare rapid sequence intubation (RSI) premedication with morphine for intubation of preterm infants.

Study design

Preterm infants needing semi-urgent intubation were enrolled to either RSI (glycopyrrolate, thiopental, suxamethonium, and remifentanil, n = 17) or atropine and morphine (n = 17) in a randomized trial. The main outcome was “good intubation conditions” (score ≤10 assessed with intubation scoring), and secondary outcomes were procedural duration, physiological and biochemical variables, amplitude-integrated electroencephalogram, and pain scores.


Infants receiving RSI had superior intubation conditions (16/17 versus 1/17, P < .001), the median (IQR) intubation score was 5 (5-6) compared with 12 (10.0-13.5, P < .001), and a shorter procedure duration of 45 seconds (35-154) compared with 97 seconds (49-365, P = .031). The morphine group had prolonged heart rate decrease (area under the curve, P < .009) and mean arterial blood pressure increase (area under the curve, P < .005 and %change: mean ± SD 21% ± 23% versus −2% ± 22%, P < .007) during the intubation, and a subsequent lower mean arterial blood pressure 3 hours after the intubation compared with baseline (P = .033), concomitant with neurophysiologic depression (P < .001) for 6 hours after. Plasma cortisol and stress/pain scores were similar.


RSI with the drugs used can be implemented as medication for semi-urgent intubation in preterm infants. Because of circulatory changes and neurophysiological depression found during and after the intubation in infants given morphine, premedication with morphine should be avoided.

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