Treatment for Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome
November 2011, New York:Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome is a breathing condition affecting newborns. Premature infants, especially those born 6 weeks or more prior to their due date, are at risk.
Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome, also known as respiratory distress disorder, is mainly caused by a lack of surfactant in the infant's lungs. Surfactant is a protective substance that coats the lungs and enables us to breathe normally by preventing the lung's air sacs from collapsing. Since infants begin producing surfactant around 26 to 34 weeks of pregnancy, premature infants do not have enough surfactant and are at risk for respiratory distress disorder. The earlier the infant is born, the greater his or her risk.
There are several other factors that may increase risk of respiratory distress disorder:
• Stress during delivery, especially if there is a large amount of blood loss
• Diabetes in the Mother
• Emergency cesarean section
Infants suffering from neonatal respiratory distress syndrome are usually diagnosed at birth or within several hours of birth. During this time, premature newborns should be given specialized care and treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Clinicians may decide on all or several courses of treatment depending on the severity of the respiratory distress.
Surfactant replacement therapy is a main course of treatment for respiratory distress disorder until the infant is able to produce adequate amounts of surfactant on his or her own. A breathing tube is inserted into the mouth and windpipe. Then, a dose of surfactant is directly administered into the lungs. The dosage required is dependent on the infant's weight. For the smallest newborns, a ¼ teaspoon may be sufficient, whereas for a larger premature infant closer to the normal weight of a newborn, a 2 teaspoon dose may be needed.
In addition to surfactant replacement therapy, a mechanical ventilator is often used to help the infant breath. This machine pushes air into the lungs through a breathing tube. The more severe the respiratory distress, the higher the air pressure needs to be to ensure that the infant is getting a full breath of air. As breathing improves, the pressure is lowered until the infant is capable of breathing without aid.
Increasingly, Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (NCPAP) is another method used to aid in neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. NCPAP administers air to the infant through small tubes placed just inside the nose. This provides a continuous push of air into the lungs to prevent re-collapse.
Low mortality rate is the biggest advantage of using surfactant replacement therapy to treat neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) in infants. Infasurf is a pure lung surfactant that helps in improving the breathing process of the new-born patient suffering from RDS.
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