Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) is a condition in newborns where the normal circulatory system malfunctions.
Birth injuries can manifest in a number of ways. They can be extremely dangerous and can cause irreparable or long term damage to the baby, and some can even cause death.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) is one such rare condition that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.
What is Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension?
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) is a condition in newborns where the normal circulatory system malfunctions. To understand the condition, it is essential to understand how the circulatory system works in a fetus while it is inside the mother’s womb.
The circulation of blood inside the body of a fetus does not pass through the lungs. Rather, oxygen to the fetus is delivered by the placenta through the umbilical cord. Therefore, the pulmonary artery circulates blood back directly through the heart via a fetal blood vessel known as the ductus arteriosus. Once born, the baby breathes through the nose and the lungs get inflated with air. During this procedure, the ductus arteriosus permanently closes due to the pressure and blood is carried by the pulmonary artery from the heart to the lungs, where the blood exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide. The blood then flows to the heart where oxygenated blood gets pumped out.
In the case of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in a newborn, this transition fails and the ductus arteriosus remains open thus bypassing the lungs. The heart receives unoxygenated blood directly from the ductus arteriosus. This condition is called persistent fetal circulation.
What Causes PPHN?
There are a number of causes of PPHN including illness during pregnancy, meconium aspiration syndrome, low blood sugar, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, infection during pregnancy, use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication by the mother during pregnancy, respiratory distress syndrome, amniotic fluid leakage, abnormal lung development caused by congenital diaphragmatic hernia, low amniotic fluid, pregnancy related stress, etc. Complications in the mother and other conditions like fetal stress during childbirth, poor health condition of the mother, diabetes, etc. can also increase the chances of PPHN.
Signs and Symptoms of PPHN
PPHN causes the following symptoms in infants, and they usually appear 12 hours after birth:
- Rapid breathing or tachypnea
- High heart rate
- Respiratory distress
- Indications like cyanosis, flaring nostrils, grunting
PPHN can be diagnosed by performing tests like chest x-rays, ultrasounds of the head and the heart, lab tests like arterial blood gas test, serum electrolyte tests, full blood count, pulse oximetry and lumbar puncture.
Treating PPHN and Prognosis
Prevention is always a first step to prevent PPHN. Correcting conditions like low blood sugar, low BP, correcting low blood PH, and administering oxygen if required are first steps in treating PPHN. However, despite immediate treatment for the condition, babies with PHHN can go into shock due to lack of oxygen reaching the body tissues, brain hemorrhaging, heart and kidney failure, seizures and multiple organ damage. These conditions can be permanently damaging and even fatal.
Birth Injuries Due to PPHN
Parents with babies born with PPHN due to medical negligence should contact a Chicago Birth Injury Lawyer to understand their legal rights and options.