A mass spectrometry test was able to rapidly measure lung maturity in premature infants at risk for respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), according to Henrik Verder, MD, of Holbaek (Denmark) University Hospital, and his associates.

Samples of gastric aspirates were taken from 136 infants with gestation periods of 24-31 weeks, and analyzed with mass spectrometry. Of this group, 61 developed RDS, and 7 died before the end of the study period. With a lecithin/sphingomyelin (L/S) cut-off ratio of 2.2, sensitivity of the mass spectrometry test was 92%, specificity was 73%, positive predictive value was 74%, and negative predictive was value of 92%. Sensitivity was high for all gestational age groups, the investigators noted.

Oropharyngeal secretions were sampled from an additional group of 59 infants and analyzed using spectrometry, with an L/S cut-off value of 3.7; however sensitivity and specificity were lower than for gastric aspirates.

“This test could help identify which infants will benefit from very early surfactant treatment, with the potential to significantly improve clinical outcomes resulting in less severe RDS, less need of mechanical ventilation and oxygen and less severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia,” the investigators concluded.

Find the study in Acta Paediatrica (2016. doi: 10.1111/apa.13683 )