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Knowledge At MET

Knowledge At MET

Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a breathing disorder affecting the newborns, more common in premature infants.

Pulmonary surfactant coats the inside of the lungs and facililtates breathing.

It might be an early phase of broncho-pulmonary dysplasia (BPD) which is another breathing disorder affecting premature babies. Some of the infants recover from RDS without suffering from BPD. Less developed or more damaged lungs are seen in infants with BPD than the infants who recover.

Infants who survive RDS may need extra medical care once home. However serious complications such as asthma , BPD, chronic breathing problem, blindness and brain damage could arise.


They include:

  1. Rapid shallow breathing
  2. Flaring of the nostrils
  3. Grunting sounds
  4. Apnea (pauses in breathing that last for a few seconds)
  5. Depending upon the severity lung complications, blood complications and other severe complications such as blindness and eye problem may

In some cases mental retardation or cerebral palsy occurs due to the bleeding developed in the brain which does interfere in the normal mental development of infants.


Lack of surfactant in the lungs is the major cause of RDS. Without enough of surfactant the lungs will collapse when the

infant exhales, making it harder for the infant to breathe. As a result of which the infant might not be able to get enough oxygen to support the body’s organs.

Risk Factors

  • Excessive maternal blood loss at the time of
  • Premature
  • Infection


The doctors usually recognize and begin treating the disorder as soon as babies are born. They conduct several tests to

rule out any other conditions that could be causing breathing problems. These tests include :

  • Chest x ray: It helps in the detection of signs of RDS in infants and other problems such as collapsed lungs, which may require urgent
  • Echocardiography: Echo is used to rule out the heart
  • Blood tests: To check whether the infant has sufficient oxygen in his/her blood and also to find out whether any kind of infection is the culprit behind the infant’s breathing


  • Surfactant replacement therapy
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Breathing support

Nowadays more and more infants receive breathing support from NCPAP (Nasal continuous positive airway pressure). These machines help the infants to breathe better. It pushes air into the baby’s lungs through prongs placed in the infants nostrils.

Medicines such as antibiotics are given to control infections.

Treatment in the NICU (Neonatal intensive care unit) includes:

  • Using a radiant warmer or incubator so as to keep the infants warm and reduce the risk of
  • Ongoing monitoring of heart rate, temperature, breathing, and blood pressure through sensors taped to the babies

Prevention of malnutrition and promotion of growth by giving I.V. fluids and nutrients through needles or tubes inserted into the infant’s veins.

Anagha Sonawane (T Y B Pharm)

Tags: MET Institute of Pharmacy