Non-invasive neurally adjusted ventilatory assist in preterm infants with RDS: effect of changing NAVA levels

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We aimed to examine the effect of changing levels of support (NAVA level) during non-invasive neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NIV-NAVA) in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) on electrical diaphragm activity. This is a prospective, single-centre, interventional, exploratory study in a convenience sample. Clinically stable preterm infants supported with NIV-NAVA for RDS were eligible. Patients were recruited in the first 24 h after the start of NIV-NAVA. Following a predefined titration protocol, NAVA levels were progressively increased starting from a level of 0.5 cmH2O/µV and with increments of 0.5 cmH2O/µV every 3 min, up to a maximum level of 4.0 cmH2O/µV. We measured the evolution of peak inspiratory pressure and the electrical signal of the diaphragm (Edi) during NAVA level titration. Twelve infants with a mean (SD) gestational age at birth of 30.6 (3.5) weeks and birth weight of 1454 (667) g were enrolled. For all patients a breakpoint could be identified during the titration study. The breakpoint was on average (SD) at a level of 2.33 (0.58) cmH2O/µV. With increasing NAVA levels, the respiratory rate decreased significantly. No severe complications occurred.Conclusions: Preterm neonates with RDS supported with NIV-NAVA display a biphasic response to changing NAVA levels with an identifiable breakpoint. This breakpoint was at a higher NAVA level than commonly used in this clinical situation. Immature neural feedback mechanisms warrant careful monitoring of preterm infants when supported with NIV-NAVA.Trial registration: NCT03780842. Date of registration December 12, 2018. What is Known: • Non-invasive neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NIV-NAVA) is a safe, feasible and effective way to support respiration in preterm infants. • Intact neural feedback mechanisms are needed to protect the lung from overdistension in neurally adjusted ventilatory assist. What is New: • Preterm infants with acute RDS have a similar pattern of respiratory unloading as previously described. • Neural feedback mechanisms seem to be immature with the risk of insufficient support and lung injury due to overdistension of the lung.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-707
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number2
Early online date17 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Artificial
  • Diaphragm
  • Infant
  • Intensive care units
  • Interactive ventilatory support
  • Neonatal
  • Newborn
  • Premature
  • Respiration
  • Respiratory distress syndrome


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