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 (premature birth or diabetic mother). When a premature infant has obvious trouble breathing when born or within a few hours of birth, infant respiratory distress syndrome is an obvious possibility. If premature birth is expected, or there is
some condition that calls for delivery as soon as possible, the amount of surfactant in the amniotic fluid will indicate how well the lungs have matured. If little surfactant is found in an amniotic fluid sample taken by placing a needle in the uterus (amniocentesis), there is a definite risk of RDS
Diagnostic tests include a chest x-ray, which will show whether the infant’s lungs are fully expanded, and a test of the oxygen level in the blood. An x ray also can demonstrate pneumothorax (air or gas in the area around the lung), if this complication has occurred. The level of oxygen in the blood can be measured by taking a blood sample from an artery, or, more easily, using a device called an oximeter, which is clipped to an earlobe. If complications during pregnancy indicate that a premature birth is likely, doctors can test the amniotic fluid for surfacant. To do this, a long thin needle is placed through the abdomen into the uterus and a fluid sample is removed. This procedure is called amniocentesis. Doctors can use this test to track the fetus’ lung development so delivery can be delayed as long as possible until the lungs are mature. Doctors can even measure the amount of surfacant in the lungs from a sample of fluid after your water breaks. Pneumothorax may have occurred if the infant suddenly becomes worse while on ventilation; x rays can help make the diagnosis.