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Nasal high-flow therapy is an alternative to nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as a means of respiratory support for newborn infants. The efficacy of high-flow therapy in nontertiary special care nurseries is unknown. METHODS We performed a multicenter, randomized, noninferiority trial involving newborn infants (<24 hours of age; gestational age, ≥31 weeks) in special care nurseries in Australia. Newborn infants with respiratory distress and a birth weight of at least 1200 g were assigned to treatment with either high-flow therapy or CPAP. The primary outcome was treatment failure within 72 hours after randomization. Infants in whom high-flow therapy failed could receive CPAP. Noninferiority was determined by calculating the absolute difference in the risk of the primary outcome, with a noninferiority margin of 10 percentage points. RESULTS A total of 754 infants (mean gestational age, 36.9 weeks, and mean birth weight, 2909 g) were included in the primary intention-to-treat analysis. Treatment failure occurred in 78 of 381 infants (20.5%) in the high-flow group and in 38 of 373 infants (10.2%) in the CPAP group (risk difference, 10.3 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.2 to 15.4). In a secondary per-protocol analysis, treatment failure occurred in 49 of 339 infants (14.5%) in the high-flow group and in 27 of 338 infants (8.0%) in the CPAP group (risk difference, 6.5 percentage points; 95% CI, 1.7 to 11.2). The incidences of mechanical ventilation, transfer to a tertiary neonatal intensive care unit, and adverse events did not differ significantly between the groups. CONCLUSIONS Nasal high-flow therapy was not shown to be noninferior to CPAP and resulted in a significantly higher incidence of treatment failure than CPAP when used in nontertiary special care nurseries as early respiratory support for newborn infants with respiratory distress.
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