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What causes infant respiratory distress syndrome?

Infant respiratory distress syndrome is caused by lack of surfactant in the lungs of premature infants. This surfactant is chemically di-palmitoul-lecithin. This lack of surfactant leads to the collapse of lung alveoli. Surfactant is produced by the type II pneumocytes, which also help generate type I pneumocytes. Tiny air sacs called alveoli are located at the tips of the

body’s smallest breathing tubes, called the bronchi. The alveoli are responsible for passing oxygen into the blood. In the last stages of pregnancy, from 34 to 37 weeks, the cells in the alveoli normally produce a substance called surfactant. Surfacant reduces the surface tension of fluids that coat the lungs so the air sacs can expand at birth and the infant can breathe normally.

It is usually seen in premature infants less than 28 weeks of gestation. The lecithin-sphingomyelin ratio is used as a test for lung maturity. The availability of synthetic surfactant since the late 1980s revolutionised its treatment. However premature infants often still require mechanical ventilation until their lungs mature. The mortality rate lies around 30%. Another management option is corticosteroid therapy for the mother. When an infant is born prematurely, the cells in the alveoli do not yet have enough surfacant formed and the alveoli cannot expand. Very premature babies may have lungs that are so stiff they cannot breathe on their own. Or, the baby may be able to start breathing, but the "airless" lungs collapse and cause respiratory distress.

 

More information on infant respiratory distress syndrome

What is infant respiratory distress syndrome? - Infant respiratory distress syndrome is a breathing disorder that is present at birth. The disease is caused by a lack of lung surfactant.
What causes infant respiratory distress syndrome? - Infant respiratory distress syndrome is caused by lack of surfactant in the lungs of premature infants.
What're the symptoms of infant respiratory distress syndrome? - The breathing of an infant with infant respiratory distress syndrome will be rapid and labored either at birth or within a few hours of birth.
How is infant respiratory distress syndrome diagnosed? - Infant respiratory distress syndrome is diagnosed based upon the symptoms present at birth and the known risk factors for the infant.
What is the treatment for infant respiratory distress syndrome? - High-risk and premature infants with infant respiratory distress syndrome require prompt attention by a pediatric resuscitation team.
How to prevent infant respiratory distress syndrome? - The best way of preventing RDS is to delay delivery until the fetal lungs have matured and are producing enough surfactant.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005, health-cares.net, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005