Acute neonatal respiratory distress in Italy: a one-year prospective study


FF Rubaltelli, Division of Neonatology, Careggi University Hospital, University of Florence School of Medicine, Viale Morgagni, 85 Firenze, Italy


A prospective multicentre 12-month survey of neonatal respiratory disorders in 63 537 Italian infants was performed to evaluate the incidence of acute neonatal respiratory disorders and of the main related complications. A total of 1427 developed respiratory disorders (2.2%), 208 of whom died (14.6%). The incidence of respiratory distress syndrome was 1.16%, with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 24%; that of transient tachypnoea was 0.93%, with a CFR of 1.3%. The rates of meconium aspiration syndrome, persistent pulmonary hypertension and pneumonia were 0.06%, 0.02% and 0.07%, with CFRs of 10.3%, 38.5% and 21.7%, respectively. The occurrences of the main complications in affected newborns were: bronchopulmonary dysplasia 5.6%, necrotizing enterocolitis 1.7%, patent ductus arteriosus 9.8%, 3o and 4o grade intraventricular haemorrhage 6.8% and air leak 4.9%. It was concluded that the incidence of acute neonatal respiratory disorders and the main related complications was lower than that reported two decades ago and that the CFR of acute neonatal respiratory disorders had increased. These results may be the consequences of (i) progress in the management of high-risk pregnancies, (ii) an increased number of viable infants with extremely low birth weight and (iii) diffusion of antenatal treatment with corticosteroids which, in this series, seemed to reduce the morbidity but not the mortality in the high-risk infants.