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Neonate with persisting respiratory distress after resolution of pneumothorax


­A preterm baby boy was born in good condition at 31+5 weeks gestation with a birth weight of 1956 g, following a precipitous labour with no prolonged rupture of membranes and no opportunity for administration of antenatal steroids to mother. Following admission to the neonatal unit, he developed respiratory distress and was commenced on nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) of 6 cm of water. At 24 hours of age, he developed a left-sided tension pneumothorax (figure 1), requiring endotracheal intubation and insertion of a chest drain. He received two doses of surfactant and was extubated onto CPAP on day 3. There was reaccumulation of the pneumothorax on day 4, which was subsequently drained. He remained self-ventilating in air in the second week of life. From day 15 to day 30, he required humidified high flow nasal cannula oxygen (fractional inspired oxygen up to 0.4), in view of marked subcostal and intercostal recession, intolerance to handling and a compensated respiratory acidosis on capillary blood gases. Figure 2 is the chest radiograph undertaken in the third week of life.

Figure 1

Chest radiograph (supine anteroposterior) on day 1.

Figure 2

Chest radiograph (supine anteroposterior) in week 3.


  1. What is the most likely diagnosis in this case?

    1. Congenital pulmonary airway malformation (CPAM)

    2. Respiratory distress syndrome

    3. Pulmonary interstitial emphysema (PIE)

    4. Pneumatocoele

    5. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia

  2. Which of the following is not an effective option for treatment of this condition?

    1. Corticosteroid therapy

    2. Lateral decubitus with affected side down

    3. High frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV)

    4. Selective main bronchial intubation of contralateral lung (which is not affected)

    5. Chest physiotherapy

  3. Which of the following statements is false about this condition?

    1. Complications can include other air leak syndromes

    2. Most neonates presenting with this condition have been mechanically ventilated

    3. Diagnosis is usually made on a chest radiograph

    4. Surfactant therapy has been associated with an increase in this condition

    5. Air embolism can be a fatal complication

Questions Answers can be found on page 2

  • Neonatology
  • Respiratory
  • Medical Education

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