Around one per cent of newborn babies across the world are affected by respiratory distress syndrome, a condition in which premature babies experience difficulty or inability to breathe due to lack of surfactant in lungs. This condition is the leading cause death in babies who are born prematurely before completing 37 weeks of gestation.
Paras Bliss Hospital, Panchkula today conducted a press conference to highlight a number of cases of ‘surfactant babies’ successfully trated at the hospital, and raise awareness about the condition.
Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is the most common lung problem in premature babies. This condition was previously known as hyaline membrane disease (HMD). A baby develops RDS when his/her lungs do not produce sufficient amounts of surfactant. Surfactant is a foamy, fatty liquid that acts like grease within the lungs and keeps the tiny air sacs in the lung open allowing for seamless breathing.
“At Paras Bliss, we have seen a number of newborn babies born in Panchkula and in adjoining rural areas brought here suffering from this condition. Thus we at Paras Bliss are seeing asurge in number of premature cases that is birth weight ranging from 750 gms to 1.5 kgs of babies in past few months. We have successfully treated over 22 to 25 affected babies over the past one year. In fact RDS is the most common causes of neo-natal mortality in premature babies. The lungs start producing surfactant after about 24 weeks of pregnancy and it gradually builds up to its full level by the 37th week. This is why the more premature the baby is, the more chances of him/her suffering from RDS. If the delivery occurs before the fetus’s lungs have produced sufficient surfactant, the baby will suffer from RDS,” says Dr Krishan Yadav, H.O.D. Neonatology, Paras Bliss, Panchkula.
Surfactant works by coating the surface of the air sacs and allows the air sacs to remain open throughout the respiratory cycle. Respiratory distress syndrome is more common among newborns whose mother has diabetes.
Artificial surfactant is given to the babies whose lungs are lacking in the substance. Surfactant replacement therapy is highly effective in saving lives of newborn babies and preventing negative effects of the condition in babies who go on to live.
In some babies, symptoms manifest themselves in the form of breathing difficulty right after birth or after a few days. Such babies are treated by delivering surfactant to their lungs by using an artificial breathing tube that is inserted into the windpipe.
“Infants who are affected with this condition have serious difficulty in breathing and the resultant lack of oxygen in the blood may give them a blue appearance. While in some newborns this condition is so severe and their air sacs so stiff that they are unable to breathe are birth. However, in most others this condition manifests after a few days. It is important to underline that without treatment, the syndrome may cause brain damage or death. It can also cause rupture in the lungs. Therefore, any such sign mustn’t be ignored,” adds Dr Yadav.
The diagnosis of the condition is made after investigating symptoms, oxygen levels in the blood, and chest x-ray.