A medication used to help infants suffering from or at great risk of respiratory distress syndrome. Surfactant is a soapy material inside the lungs of adults and mature infants that helps the lung to function. Without surfactant, the air sacs tend to collapse on exhalation. Lung surfactant production is one of the last systems to mature in an infant. Prematurely born infants often lack adequate surfactant production and this causes them significant breathing problems.
Surfactant obtained from cows has been shown to be safe and effective in treating respiratory distress due to surfactant deficiency. The use of surfactant to treat respiratory problems in newborn infants is one of the most important medical advances in pediatrics in the past decade.