Understanding Survanta® for Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Survanta® is a prescription medicine given to premature babies suffering from or at risk of developing Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). It contains a natural lung surfactant that helps babies breathe easier.

What is Respiratory Distress Syndrome?

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) often affects premature infants born before 32 weeks gestation. In RDS, babies lack sufficient surfactant – a soapy substance that lines the inner air sacs of healthy lungs.

Without enough surfactant, the air sacs can collapse and stick together. This makes breathing very difficult and limits oxygen supply to the bloodstream.

Symptoms of RDS include:

  • Rapid, troubled breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Retractions of the chest and belly
  • Bluish colored skin from lack of oxygen
  • Grunting sounds with breathing

RDS usually starts within the first few hours after birth and can quickly become life threatening without prompt medical intervention.

How Can Survanta® Help?

Survanta contains a bovine-derived lung surfactant – the same type of protective substance babies need in their lungs to breathe properly after birth.

It works by coating the inside of air sacs to prevent collapse and sticking. This allows the lungs to inflate more easily with each breath.

When given through a breathing tube soon after birth, Survanta can decrease the severity of RDS and reduce the need for alternative life support. It may only require one or two doses to significantly improve breathing function.

Survanta is not a cure but rather supportive RDS therapy to help stabilize premature babies during this high-risk period.

Who is Survanta® Given To?

Survanta® treatment is only used for premature newborns who meet the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with RDS or at very high risk of developing RDS
  • Birth weight over 700g
  • Breathing assistance required from mechanical ventilation
  • Access to proper RDS equipment and monitoring

The first dose is typically given within 15 minutes of birth for the best outcome.

Repeat dosing may be needed within the first 48 hours of life depending on initial response and breathing status.

How is Survanta® Administered?

Survanta is given through an endotracheal tube already placed to assist the infant with breathing from the mechanical ventilator.

During administration, infants remain connected to the ventilator with cardio-respiratory monitoring.

Medical staff will reposition the baby and alter the dosage amount depending on weight to ensure even distribution of the medicine in the lungs.

The suspension is warmed to room temperature beforehand for comfort and easier administration.

What are the Potential Side Effects?

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with Survanta® use. Potential risks requiring swift medical intervention include:

  • Bleeding in the lungs or brain
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Blocked breathing tube
  • Decreased oxygenation

The medical team closely oversees all infants given Survanta® in a neonatal intensive care environment prepared to address any concerns.

Proper Storage and Handling

Survanta® suspension comes packaged in single-use glass vials containing enough medicine for one dose. It must be refrigerated and protected from light.

Before dosing, the medicine is warmed to room temperature for use within 8 hours. Any unused product not meeting this timeframe gets discarded.

As a lifesaving prescription therapy, Survanta® should be kept secure and out of reach of children. Proper protocols also prevent microbe contamination between patients.

Frequently Asked Questions about Survanta®

Here are answers to some common questions about this important RDS therapy:

Q: How much does Survanta® cost?

A: As a specialty biological medication and medical procedure, Survanta® treatment is expensive, often exceeding $500 per dose. Healthcare facilities have access to payment assistance programs for qualified families.

Q: Are there any long-term side effects of Survanta®?

A: No long term adverse effects have been found in research when Surfactant is used as prescribed under neonatology care. Surfactant therapy is well-tolerated overall.

Q: Can Survanta® be used at home instead of the NICU?

A: No – administration requires endotracheal intubation with mechanical ventilation in a high-level nursery setting for proper dosing and monitoring of response.

Q: How successful is Survanta® at treating RDS?

A: Multiple studies show Survanta® effectively improves oxygenation and lung compliance in a majority of premature infants with RDS when given early. Survival rates are also better compared to no treatment.

Q: How does Survanta® work?

A: As an exogenous surfactant, it coats the lung air sacs to lower surface tension, preventing their collapse so oxygen can transfer from the lungs to the bloodstream more easily.

Q: Can Survanta® fix other breathing issues or be used in adults?

A: No – Survanta is only indicated to treat RDS in premature infants. Research into synthetic peptide surfactants is ongoing for broader medical applications.

Q: Who manufactures and distributes Survanta®?

A: Survanta® is manufactured by AbbVie Logistics B.V. in the Netherlands and distributed in the UK and Malta by AbbVie Ltd.


Survanta® beractant intratracheal suspension serves as a vital, sometimes life-saving treatment when premature newborns struggle with Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Though expensive and requiring intensive care administration, the benefits far outweigh the risks for babies meeting the criteria.

Understanding the mechanics of RDS and how replacement lung surfactants work helps families feel more empowered during an incredibly challenging time.

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