The "critical" neonate with diaphragmatic hernia: A 21-year perspective

Marleta Reynolds, Susan R. Luck*, Rhonda Lappen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We have seen a modest improvement in the survival of a homogeneous group of critically ill newborns with congenital diaphragmatic hernia since 1979. Twenty-seven "critical" infants have been treated who developed respiratory distress shortly after birth, required urgent resuscitation, and could not be stabilized before operation. Two died with other anomalies that appeared incompatible with prolonged survival. Ten of the 27 lived. This survival contrasts with that of only two of 17 similarly affected babies treated from 1962 to 1978. In addition, there has been no operative mortality outside of this "critical" group since 1979; whereas six noncritical babies died between 1967 to 1978. Our current therapeutic plan includes the early establishment of a respiratory alkalosis and vasodilator therapy before or during transport. Postoperatively we have attempted to maintain the baby's arterial pH>7.5, Pco2<25 to 30 and the PO2∼150 torr. The most effective ventilatory parameters have been a rate of 130, PEEP of 5 and an inspiratory:expiratory ratio of 1:1. Peak airway pressures are kept as low as possible. Pharmacologic and ventilator therapy are weaned slowly, and intensive support has been required for at least 48 hours in each baby. Retained secretions and atelectasis of the hypoplastic lung persisted for two to several weeks postoperatively. Two babies that are one year of older still appear to have severely hypoplastic lungs on chest x-ray. M-mode echocardiography has been used to measure ventricular ejection periods. The right ventricular systolic time interval correlates with the degree of pulmonary hypertension. This noninvasive modality is a promising means of following pulmonary vascular resistance. Evidence of decreasing resistance can be taken as an indication to wean aggressive therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-369
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1984


  • Neonatal diaphragmatic hernia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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