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Gosford Hospital partners in study which aims to help pre-term babies breathe easier, closer to home

Babies on the Central Coast and around the world born at 31 weeks’ gestation or later could be breathing easier closer to home, thanks to a ground-breaking study that Gosford Hospital has taken part in.

The HUNTER trial, published this week in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, highlights the most effective way to support newborn babies with breathing difficulties, ultimately helping reduce the need for transfers to intensive care nurseries outside the area.

More than 750 babies were recruited from nine Special Care Nurseries across Victoria and New South Wales, including Gosford Hospital. The trial developed through the collaboration between these centres and Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, which led the trial.

Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) Senior Staff Specialist Paediatrician and Conjoint Associate Professor Adam Buckmaster was one of the Chief Investigators involved.

He said the trial assessed whether the use of a simpler and gentler breathing support – nasal high-flow therapy – is as effective as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) in preventing babies from being transferred to an intensive care unit.

“Although the Hunter trial showed that CPAP was still the better respiratory support for some newborn infants, in about 80 per cent of the babies high-flow worked well and they didn’t need any other breathing intervention,” Prof Buckmaster said.

“In the babies that had to move onto CPAP after starting with high-flow, their outcomes were the same as if they’d been on CPAP from the beginning, so we now know that there is the option to start some babies on the more gentle and comfortable breathing support if hospitals wish to do so.”

Prof Buckmaster said it was the only study in the world to examine the benefits of High-Flow in a non-intensive care setting.

“These results will not only have implications for what we do at Gosford Hospital in the future, but also for smaller nurseries around Australia and potentially even third world countries.”

Prof Buckmaster said the collaboration with the Royal Women’s Hospital and their lead researcher neonatal consultant Dr Brett Manley was an exciting step forward in the research field of respiratory support for newborns.

“This was a unique and landmark study to be able to carry out such a large, multi-state trial in smaller, non-academic hospitals where newborn clinical research is not commonly carried out,” he said.

“We hope that the strong collaboration that developed with this trial will lead to many more studies in the future, helping to answer the clinically important questions for infants and families delivering in non-tertiary centres around Australia.”

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