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The evidence that nasal mask continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is better than bilateral, short nasal prong CPAP is convincing.1 However the evidence of benefit is only for short-term outcomes. I have significant concerns about using nasal mask CPAP continuously over many days in extremely preterm or extremely low birth weight infants. These babies have soft malleable skulls. We saw that this was a problem decades ago when small babies were primarily nursed with their head on the side; and subsequent dolichocephaly was very common as a result.2 The hat and straps needed to keep a mask in place put pressure on a baby's soft, malleable skull in a different way to the hat used during nasal prong CPAP. The long term effects of this pressure on boney development, particularly of the midface, are unknown, but they could be considerable. Because of these concerns I do not use nasal mask CPAP continuously. I alternate the use of masks with nasal prongs.
1. Kieran EA, Twomey AR, Molloy EJ, et al. Randomized trial of prongs or mask for nasal continuous positive airway pressure in preterm infants. Pediatrics 2012;130:e1170–6.doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3548.
2. Ifflaender S, Rüdiger M, Konstantelos D, Wahls K, Burkhardt W. Prevalence of head deformities in preterm infants at term equivalent age. Early Human Development 2013;89(12):1041-1047.