To investigate whether early (<1 hour after birth) surfactant administration would be superior to late treatment (2–6 hours after birth) in preterm infants.

Study Design.

Randomized controlled multicenter clinical trial.

Patients and Methods.

Prenatal randomization of all infants of 27 to 32 weeks' gestational age stratified by center after parental informed consent. Early treatment: 100 mg/kg body weight bovine surfactant (SF-RI1, Alveofact; Dr K. Thomae, Biberach, Germany) to infants requiring intubation after birth. Late treatment: identical dosage to infants requiring intubation up to 6 hours of age with the fraction of inspired oxygen >0.4 at 2 to 6 hours after birth. Primary endpoint: the time on mechanical ventilation. Main secondary endpoints: mortality, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, intraventricular hemorrhage ≥grade III, and periventricular leukomalacia. Sample size calculation: at least 280 infants to prove superiority of either approach (α = 0.05; β = 0.90).


Enrollment of 317 infants, 154 randomized to early surfactant treatment, 163 to late surfactant treatment. Study infants (all following data intent-to-treat groups: early versus late surfactant) were similar with respect to: gestational age, 29.5 ± 1.6 weeks versus 29.7 ± 1.6 weeks; birth weight, 1227 ± 367 g versus 1269 ± 334 g; and the rate of prenatal corticosteroids, 79.9% versus 72.8%. Duration of mechanical ventilation: 3 days (0–8) versus 2 days (0–6) (median, interquartile); further outcome variables: death or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (day 28) 25.9% versus 23.9%, mortality 3.2% versus 1.8%, intraventricular hemorrhage ≥grade III 6.5% versus 3.7%, and periventricular leukomalacia 5.2% versus 5.5% not differing statistically.


In preterm infants with a high rate of prenatal glucocorticoids, early surfactant administration was not found to be superior to late treatment in terms of relevant outcome variables.

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