Clinical burden associated with therapies for cardio-pulmonary critical decompensation in preterm neonates across Canadian neonatal intensive care units Journal Articles uri icon

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  • UNLABELLED: The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to study the clinical burden associated with cardio-pulmonary critical decompensations (CPCDs) in preterm neonates and factors associated with mortality. Through the Canadian Neonatal Network (30 tertiary NICUs, 2010-2017), we identified infants < 32-week gestational age with CPCDs, defined by "significant exposure" to cardiotropes and/or inhaled nitric oxide (iNO): (1) either therapy for ≥ 3 consecutive days, (2) both for ≥ 2 consecutive days, or (3) any exposure within 2 days of death. Early CPCDs (≤ 3 days of age) and late CPCDs (> 3 days) were examined separately. Outcomes included CPCD-incidence, mortality, and inter-site variability using standardized ratios (observed/adjusted expected rate) and network funnel plots. Mixed-effects analysis was used to quantify unit-level variability in mortality. Overall, 10% of admissions experienced CPCDs (n = 2915). Late CPCDs decreased by ~ 5%/year, while early CPCDs were unchanged during the study period. Incidence and CPCD-associated mortality varied between sites, for both early (0.6-7.5% and 0-100%, respectively) and late CPCDs (2.5-15% and 14-83%, respectively), all p < 0.01. Units' late-CPCD incidence and mortality demonstrated an inverse relationship (slope =  -2.5, p < 0.01). Mixed-effects analysis demonstrated clustering effect, with 6.4% and 8.6% of variability in mortality after early and late CPCDs respectively being site-related, unexplained by available patient-level characteristics or unit volume. Mortality was higher with combined exposure than with only-cardiotropes or only-iNO (41.3%, 24.8%, 21.5%, respectively; p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Clustering effects exist in CPCD-associated mortality among Canadian NICUs, with higher incidence units showing lower mortality. These data may aid network-level benchmarking, patient-level risk stratification, parental counseling, and further research and quality improvement work. WHAT IS KNOWN: • Preterm neonates remain at high risk of acute and chronic complications; the most critically unwell require therapies such as cardiotropic drugs and inhaled nitric oxide. • Infants requiring these therapies are known to be at high risk for adverse neonatal outcomes and for mortality. WHAT IS NEW: • This study helps illuminate the national burden of acute cardio-pulmonary critical decompensation (CPCD), defined as the need for cardiotropic drugs or inhaled nitric oxide, and highlights the high risk of morbidity and mortality associated with this disease state. • Significant nationwide variability exists in both CPCD incidence and associated mortality; a clustering effect was observed with higher incidence sites showing lower CPCD-associated mortality.


  • Kharrat, Ashraf
  • McNamara, Patrick J
  • Weisz, Dany E
  • Kelly, Edmond
  • Masse, Edith
  • Mukerji, Amit
  • Louis, Deepak
  • Afifi, Jehier
  • Ye, Xiang Y
  • Shah, Prakesh S
  • Jain, Amish

publication date

  • September 2022