Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) in new-born babies

16 June 17

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is a condition that occurs in premature infants whose lungs haven’t developed fully. It is also known as Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS) and Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The more prematurely a baby is born, the higher are his chances of contracting the syndrome.

It is most likely to occur due to a lack of pulmonary surfactant - a slippery substance in the lungs that fill them with air and keep the air sacs inflated. It can also be a consequence of:

  • Neonatal infection
  • Genetic problems with lung development
  • Genetic problem with the production of surfactant related proteins

Symptoms appear within minutes of birth but at times may take several hours. Some of them are:

  • Blue-coloured lips, fingers and toes
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Decreased urine output
  • Grunting sound when breathing
  • Unusual breathing movement

Treatment must be provided immediately to babies with this condition.

  • Infants may be given warm, moist oxygen. However, this needs to be monitored closely.
  • Artificial surfactant helps restore normal lung function. This is delivered directly into the baby's airway.
  • Assisted ventilation with a ventilator can be lifesaving. However, it must be the last resort as it may damage the lung tissues.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) may prevent the need for assisted ventilation or surfactant as air is sent directly into the nose to help keep the airways open.

In most cases, the issue can be prevented if mothers are given glucocorticoids – a particular group of hormones that aid the production of surfactant.

The risk of prematurity and RDS increase in subsequent deliveries. Hence, to mitigate the complications mentioned above, the parents, family members and caregivers of premature infants must be educated and counselled.

Oyster & Pearl Hospital is one of the most trusted and renowned hospitals with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Pune. At ONP, your baby is in safe hands and under expert supervision.