Characteristics and outcomes of respiratory distress among term infants born in a regional setting

Publication Name

Australian Journal of Rural Health


Introduction: Respiratory distress is the leading cause of admission to neonatal units and is a common indication for medical retrieval. Whilst approximately 25% of births in NSW occur in regional centres, there is a paucity of neonatal research in these settings. Objective: To describe the characteristics and outcomes of term neonates admitted with respiratory distress to two regional special care nurseries (SCNs) and identify variables associated with the need for medical retrieval. Design: We describe a cohort of 629 term infants admitted to the SCN in two regional hospitals, 2015–2019. We describe the admission characteristics, level of respiratory support, biochemical investigations, diagnosis and outcomes. Findings: During the study period, 629 eligible term infants were admitted, retrieval occurred in 29 (4.6%). Those admitted were more often male (66.5%), with a mean gestational age of 39 + 1 weeks (±9 days) and birth weight of 3470 g (±500 g). Infants requiring medical retrieval had higher PaCO2 on blood gas analysis (59.8 mmHg vs. 53.3 mmHg, OR 1.03, p = 0.02). There was no association between maternal GBS status, meconium-stained liquor, gestational age, or raised inflammatory markers and medical retrieval. Transient tachypnoea of the newborn was the most common diagnosis of neonates admitted to SCN with respiratory distress. Discussion: Among term infants admitted to a SCN for respiratory distress most were male, of a normal birthweight and born in good condition. Within our cohort there was no association between retrieval and maternal GBS colonisation, meconium-stained liquor or raised infectious biomarkers. Medical retrieval was infrequent and was associated with higher PaCO2 on initial blood gas analysis. Conclusion: We present a large cohort of term newborn infants managed for respiratory distress in a regional setting over a five-year period. Retrieval was infrequent, and outcomes for the cohort were excellent with no deaths during the study period.

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