Inhaling nitric oxide can help newborns with a rare breathing problem and in many cases can eliminate the need for high-risk, expensive and invasive surgery, researchers say.
A study on the therapy was stopped two months ahead of schedule because the results were so encouraging, researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research in Washington.The treatment worked on a breathing disorder called hypoxic respiratory failure, in which an infant's blood vessels constrict in the lungs.
"Nitric oxide has proven to be a safe and effective alternative treatment to surgery for infants suffering from hypoxic respiratory failure," NICHD director Dr Duane Alexander said. "We would expect to see a marked decrease in the need for expensive, invasive surgery with the adoption of this therapy into standard practice."
Several thousand of U.S. children have this problem each year and about 1,000 undergo surgery. One in five of those who have the surgery die and others develop neurological problems.
In one study involving 230 babies, NICHD said, half had traditional treatment and 62 percent of them ended up needing the surgery. Of those who received the nitric oxide, only 42 percent needed surgery.