What Is Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. This gives the fetus time to grow. At 40 weeks, the
organs are usually fully developed. If a baby is born too early, the lungs may
not be fully developed, and they may not function properly. Healthy lungs are
crucial for overall health.
respiratory distress syndrome, or neonatal RDS, may occur if the lungs aren’t
fully developed. It typically occurs in premature babies. Infants with neonatal
RDS have difficulty breathing normally.
is also known as hyaline membrane disease and infant respiratory distress
What Causes Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
is a substance that enables the lungs to expand and contract. It also keeps the
small air sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli, open. Premature infants lack
surfactant. This can cause lung problems and trouble breathing.
RDS may also
occur because of a developmental problem linked to genetics.
Who Is at Risk for Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
and lung function develop in utero. The earlier an infant is born, the higher
the risk of RDS. Infants born before 28 weeks gestation are especially at risk.
Other risk factors include:
sibling with RDS
pregnancy (twins, triplets)
blood flow to the baby during delivery
What Are the Symptoms of Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
will typically display signs of RDS shortly after birth. However, sometimes
symptoms develop within the first 24 hours after birth. Symptoms to watch for
tint to skin
or shallow breathing
How Is Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome Diagnosed?
If a doctor
suspects RDS, they’ll order lab tests to rule out infections that could cause
breathing problems. They’ll also order a chest X-ray to examine the lungs. A
blood gas analysis will check oxygen levels in the blood.
What Are the Treatments for Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
infant is born with RDS and symptoms are immediately apparent, the infant is
usually admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
main treatments for RDS are:
ventilator or nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) machine
replacement therapy gives an infant the surfactant they lack. The therapy
delivers the treatment through a breathing tube. This ensures it goes into the
lungs. After receiving the surfactant, the doctor will connect the infant to a
ventilator. This provides extra breathing support. They may need this procedure
several times, depending on the severity of the condition.
may also receive ventilator treatment alone for breathing support. A ventilator
involves placing a tube down into the windpipe. The ventilator then breathes
for the infant. A less invasive breathing support option is a nasal continuous
positive airway pressure (NCPAP) machine. This administers oxygen through the
nostrils by a small mask.
therapy delivers oxygen to the infant’s organs. Without adequate oxygen, the
organs don’t function properly. A ventilator or NCPAP can administer oxygen.
How Can I Prevent Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome?
premature delivery lowers the risk of neonatal RDS. To reduce the risk of
premature delivery, get consistent prenatal care throughout pregnancy and avoid
smoking, illicit drugs, and alcohol.
premature delivery is likely, the mother may receive corticosteroids. These
drugs promote faster lung development and production of surfactant, which is
very important to fetal lung function.
What Are the Complications Associated with Neonatal Respiratory Distress
may get worse over the first few days of a baby’s life. RDS can be fatal. There
may also be long-term complications due to either receiving too much oxygen or
because organs lacked oxygen. Complications can include:
buildup in the sac around heart, or around the lungs
into the brain or lungs
dysplasia (a breathing disorder)
failure (in severe RDS)
your doctor about the risk of complications. They depend on the severity of
your infant’s RDS. Each infant is different. These are simply possible
complications; they might not occur at all. Your doctor can also connect you to
a support group or counselor. This can help with the emotional stress of
dealing with a premature infant.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
can be a challenging time for parents. Talk to your pediatrician or neonatal
doctor for advice on resources to help you manage the next few years of your
child’s life. Further testing, including eye and hearing exams and physical or
speech therapy, may be necessary in the future. Seek support and encouragement
from support groups to help you deal with the emotional stress.