Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) is an effective treatment of respiratory distress syndrome. Due to long-standing experience of early nCPAP as the primary respiratory support option in preterm infants, this approach is sometimes labeled ‘the Scandinavian Model’. Mechanical ventilation is potentially harmful to the immature lungs and cohort studies have demonstrated that centers using more CPAP and less mechanical ventilation have reduced rates of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. However, there is a lack of evidence in the form of larger, randomized controlled trials to prove the superiority of either method. Surfactant is essential in the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome and has generally been reserved for infants on mechanical ventilation. With the development of INSURE (INtubation SURfactant Extubation), in which surfactant is administered during a brief intubation followed by immediate extubation, surfactant therapy can be given during nCPAP treatment further reducing need for mechanical ventilation. In this review the history, current knowledge and techniques of CPAP and surfactant are discussed.

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