Is CPAP a feasible treatment modality in a rural district hospital for neonates with respiratory distress syndrome
Introduction: Limited facilities exist at rural hospitals for the management of newborn infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Furthermore, the secondary and tertiary hospitals are under severe strain to accept all the referrals from rural hospitals. Many of these infants require intubation and ventilation with a resuscitation bag which must be sustained for hours until the transport team arrives. Not only is lung damage inflicted by the prolonged ventilation, but transferring the infant by helicopter and ambulance is expensive. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a non-invasive form of ventilatory support, has been used successfully at regional (Level 2) and tertiary (Level 3) neonatal units, to manage infants with RDS. It is cost-effective for infants with mild to moderate grades of RDS to be managed at the rural hospital instead of being transferred to the regional secondary or tertiary hospital. CPAP was introduced to Ceres Hospital, a rural Level 1 hospital, in February 2008 for the management of infants with RDS. Aim: To determine the impact of CPAP on the management of infants with RDS in a rural level 1 hospital and whether it can reduce the number of referrals to regional hospitals. Study setting: Nursery at Ceres District Hospital, Cape Winelands District, Western Cape. Study design: Prospective cohort analytical study with an historic control group (HCG). Patients and Methods: The study group (SG) comprised all neonates with respiratory distress born between 27/02/2008 and 26/02/2010. The infants were initially resuscitated with a Neopuff® machine in labour-ward and CPAP was commenced for those with RDS. The survival and referral rates of the SG were compared to an historic control group (HCG) of infants born between 1/2/2006 to 31/01/2008 at Ceres Hospital. Results: During the 2 years of the study, 51 neonates received CPAP (34 <1800g, 17>1800g). Twenty (83%) of the SG infants between 1000g and 1800g and 23 (68%) of the infants between 500g and 1800g survived. Those <1800g that failed CPAP, had either a severe grade of RDS which required intubation and ventilation or were <1000g. Seventeen (33%) of the infants that received CPAP, were in the >1800g group. Thirteen (76%) of these infants were successfully treated with CPAP only. The four infants that failed CPAP suffered from congenital abnormalities and would not have benefited from CPAP. There was no statistically significant difference in the survival between the SG and HCG (80%) (p=0.5490) but the number of referrals decreased significantly from 21% in the HCG to 7% in the SG (p=0.0003). No complications related to CPAP treatment, such as pneumothorax, were noted. The nursing and medical staff quickly became proficient and confident in applying CPAP and were committed to the project. Conclusion: CPAP can be safely and successfully practised in infants with mild to moderate RDS in a rural Level 1 hospital. The survival rate stayed the same as the HCG, even though a higher risk infants were treated in the SG. The transfers were significantly reduced from 21% to 7%. This resulted in significant cost savings for the hospital.