What Is Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in the Newborn?

What Is Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in the Newborn?It is a well-known fact that babies do not have to breathe when inside their mother’s womb. However, once they are born, one of the first tasks they must quickly master is breathing on their own. If a newborn is unable to breathe on its own, it may have a condition called “persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn.” This medical complication is serious and potentially life-threatening. A child facing this diagnosis could experience health issues for several months or years to come. As a form of catastrophic birth injury, this condition demands immediate and effective medical intervention.

Defining persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn

In simple terms, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is a health condition that causes severe breathing issues among babies. When your newborn child cannot breathe on their own because their circulatory system did not adapt or become accustomed to being outside the womb and needing to provide oxygen, there is a strong possibility that they may have PPHN. In some cases, this could be considered a birth injury.

Babies who are in the womb receive oxygen from the mother through the placenta and umbilical cord. Therefore, the blood vessels that are found in the lungs remain closed throughout the entire pregnancy. However, the minute that a baby is born, the blood vessels in the lungs should open to provide oxygen to the baby’s body. If the blood vessels stay closed or do not fully open, the baby will be unable to get enough oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. As a result, the infant could experience very serious health problems or even death.

Does PPHN occur often?

PPHN is a relatively rare but severe condition that parents should be aware of, especially if they are expecting a baby. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “PPHN occurs in 2 out of every 1,000 live births.” Full-term and late-term newborns have the highest chance of developing PPHN. However, premature babies can also be diagnosed with the condition. Although not common, the potential severity of PPHN makes it a condition that physicians should look for and monitor closely during childbirth.

Symptoms of PPHN of the newborn

If you think that your baby may have PPHN or simply want to be aware and prepared before they are born, these are the symptoms that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Very fast or slow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hands or feet feeling cold
  • Blue skin or lips
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Making noises when breathing
  • Unusual heart sounds

What causes PPHN?

While PPHN can develop naturally, it can also be caused by medical malpractice or birth injuries. Throughout the pregnancy and during labor and delivery, it is the responsibility of doctors and other medical professionals to make sure that the mother and baby do not have any issues that could cause serious conditions like PPHN. If any abnormalities arise, they should receive prompt attention and treatment. The following are some of the most common causes of PPHN:

  • Fetal infection
  • Fetal hypoxia
  • Low amniotic fluid
  • The use of NSAIDs or antidepressants while pregnant, especially in the third trimester
  • Amniotic fluid leaking
  • Low blood sugar
  • Severe stress
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • Abnormal lung development due to other conditions
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia
  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Birth asphyxia
  • Pneumonia

Most of these conditions are preventable or treatable by a licensed healthcare provider. If they are left untreated or treatment is unnecessarily delayed, your baby may be born with PPHN, leading to significant health challenges.

How is PPHN diagnosed?

When a baby is born, doctors will evaluate their condition to determine whether they are healthy or need immediate medical assistance. For example, doctors and nurses in Seattle perform checks on your baby’s weight, temperature, length, head, muscles, reflexes, heart rate, breathing, and more. During these checks, a healthcare professional may find that your baby has PPHN. A few other routine tests that may determine that your baby has PPHN include:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Echocardiogram

What treatment options are available for PPHN?

If a baby is diagnosed with PPHN, healthcare providers must act swiftly to open the blood vessels in the lungs and ensure that the baby receives enough oxygen throughout the body. Some of the different treatment options that may help include:

  • A ventilator
  • Nasal cannula oxygen system
  • Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP)
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Sedatives
  • Antibiotics
  • Surfactant medications

Doctors will give the baby medications through an intravenous (IV) catheter placed in the baby’s arm, leg, or umbilical cord. The medicines will help the baby relax and remain calm, avoid infections, maintain good blood pressure levels, and receive more oxygen.

Complications that may arise from PPHN

PPHN can lead to various severe complications, including:

  • Hearing problems and deafness
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Physical and developmental issues
  • Kidney problems
  • Brain damage
  • Cognitive and learning disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Shock
  • Death

If your baby was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn after being born, the Seattle birth injury lawyers at Smith McBroom are here to help. We will thoroughly investigate whether your baby’s PPHN resulted from a healthcare provider’s negligence and help you pursue a potential medical malpractice claim to hold them accountable. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our Tukwila office today. We are committed to helping you get the justice and compensation you deserve to cover your child’s injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.