Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Also known as: RDS, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, infant respiratory distress syndrome, hyaline membrane disease.

What is respiratory distress syndrome?

Respiratory distress syndrome is one of the most common clinical conditions involving the lungs seen in premature babies. It involves breathing difficulties in the babies, as well as other potential complications.
 

What causes respiratory distress syndrome?

When a baby’s lungs are fully developed, their air sacs (alveoli) have an adequate amount of a substance called surfactant, a liquid produced by the lungs that helps the lung alveoli to stay open so that a baby can take his/her first breathe and keep the alveoli open when he/she breathes out. Premature babies depending on their degree of prematurity, often don’t have enough of this surfactant (surfactant begins to be produced by 26 weeks of gestation) and the air sacs collapse after each breath. This makes the baby have to work harder to open them with each breath in and causes the lungs not to work properly. This is more likely to occur when the baby is less than 28 weeks gestation, they are boys, white, have been delivered by cesarean section, are one of twins (or multiple birth), have had a sibling born with the same condition, if the mother is diabetic, or due to a few other risk factors.
 

What are the symptoms of respiratory distress syndrome?

Depending on the size and gestational age of the baby, and severity, soon after birth a baby may have rapid of shallow breathing, unusual breathing motions or grunting, or periods when he/she stop in breathing, bluish skin color due to lack of oxygen, nasal flaring and other symptoms which worsen over 48 to 72 hours before potentially improving.
 

What are respiratory distress syndrome care options?

Babies with respiratory distress syndrome may need immediate treatment with an artificial surfactant replacement (delivered through a breathing tube placed into the baby's airways) and oxygen delivered by a number of mechanisms to assist breathing, these may include: continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), mechanical ventilation to help with the work of breathing and other medications to prevent pain and to enable the baby to sleep through the treatment program (sedation).

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:17:26 PM


Upcoming Events

Ventilation Assisted Children's Center (VACC) Camp

VACC Camp is a week-long sleep-away camp for children requiring ventilator assistance (tracheostomy ventilator, C-PAP, BiPAP, or oxygen to support breathing) and their families.  Learn more.

Register Online

9th Annual Dr. Moises Simpser VACC Camp Golf Tournament

Join us for a great day of golf, delicious dinner and exciting auction...all to benefit the children of VACC Camp. Learn more.

From the Newsdesk

Dental Health in Children with Asthma
The medications that an asthmatic child uses could have effects on the oral mucosa.
 
July Patient of the Month: Justin
The moment Justin was born, his mother and father were faced with the most daunting and challenging experience any parent can imagine. Just hours after birth, Justin was airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for more specialized pediatric care. Having been diagnosed with pulmonary atresia and tetralogy of Fallot, he required immediate attention before it was too late.

Video

video
The moment Justin was born, his mother and father were faced with the most daunting and challenging experience any parent can imagine. Just hours after birth, Justin was airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for more specialized pediatric care. Having been diagnosed with pulmonary atresia and tetralogy of Fallot, he required immediate attention before it was too late.