A new study from the King’s College London suggests that very rapid but shallow breaths have led to long-term function. This particularly helps babies who are born prematurely because their lungs are too tiny to breathe adequate air to their lungs.
Current practice sets the ventilator to between 30 to 60 breaths per minute. However, the researchers have concluded that high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) – approximately 600 short and shallow breaths per minute- improved long-term lung development. The researchers believe that HFOV will reduce the probability of permanent damage to the airways of the lungs.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers tracked 319 babies born before 29 weeks of gestation, from birth to adolescence. The children were invited to test lung function and complete questionnaires about their health. The group who were under the HFOV had a better lung function that those who used the conventional ventilation. However, the difference was too insignificant to affect the questionnaire responses about the health of the children or any respiratory disease, such as childhood asthma.
The long-term effects of HFOV on lung function is better than conventional ventilation, but concerns still arise on over the initial safety of the technique. HFOV in the past has been linked to increased risk of bleeding in the brain and causing brain damage.
Professor Anne Greenough, from King's College London, said, “It is exciting that the differences are still there in adolescence.”