Objective: To search for recent clinical trials of neonatal surfactant treatment and report their findings. Methods: Recent was defined as published between 2000 and 2005. An online search on PubMed was made on 30th December 2005 using the following terms: surfactant treatment, clinical trials and neonate, with limits of years 2000 to 2005 and age – newborn from birth to 1 month. Randomised clinical trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews of RCTs were prioritised and studies in children and animals were excluded from further analysis. Results: 175 papers were found in this search. Only about half of these papers were directly related to some aspect of surfactant treatment and of these just over one-half were either RCTs or systematic reviews of RCTs. Of the 34 RCTs of surfactant treatment, 3 were excluded as they involved children or animals rather than neonates. Twenty-nine trials studied preterm babies with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and 2 were for meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) in term infants. The median sample sizes of these studies were RDS (92, range 19–1,361) and MAS (42, range 22–61). Eighteen of the RDS trials compared two or more surfactant preparations, the most frequently studied being Curosurf and Survanta but altogether 11 different surfactants were compared. These new RCTs need to be analysed by meta-analyses in systematic reviews. Twelve systematic reviews were found and these demonstrated the superiority of prophylactic over selective use of surfactant in babies <30 weeks, natural over synthetic surfactant and the absence of an increase in long-term developmental sequelae. Surfactant for MAS may reduce the severity of respiratory illness and the need for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Of the non-randomised trials’ novel delivery methods, failure to use evidence-based guidelines and the benefit of surfactant for babies <25 weeks were the most interesting. Conclusions: Surfactant remains one of the most effective and safest interventions in neonatology. Prophylactic natural surfactant seems to be the most evidence-based treatment for babies <30 weeks. Of the newer synthetic surfactants, only Surfaxin has been compared with currently used surfactants and systematic reviews are needed to establish if it has a role in treatment of RDS.The improvement in outcome for babies <25 weeks has been due to a number of interventions: prenatal steroids, prenatal antibiotics and postnatal surfactant. Clinical trials of surfactant replacement in the neonate continue to be published with remarkable frequency.

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