Get answers to your child's growth, nutrition, and feeding behavior questions.
Hyaline membrane disease; Infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS); Respiratory distress syndrome in infants; RDS - infants
High-risk and premature infants require prompt attention by a neonatal resuscitation team.
Despite greatly improved RDS treatment in recent years, many controversies still exist. Delivering artificial surfactant directly to the infant's lungs can be enormously important, but how much should be given and who should receive it and when is still under investigation.
Infants will be given warm, moist oxygen. This is critically important, but needs to be given carefully to reduce the side effects associated with too much oxygen.
A breathing machine can be lifesaving, especially for babies with the following:
It can also be lifesaving for infants with repeated breathing pauses. There are a number of different types of breathing machines available. However, the devices can damage fragile lung tissues, and breathing machines should be avoided or limited when possible.
A treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) that delivers slightly pressurized air through the nose can help keep the airways open and may prevent the need for a breathing machine for many babies. Even with CPAP, oxygen and pressure will be reduced as soon as possible to prevent side effects associated with excessive oxygen or pressure.
A variety of other treatments may be used, including:
It is important that all babies with RDS receive excellent supportive care, including the following, which help reduce the infant's oxygen needs:
Infants with RDS also need careful fluid management and close attention to other situations, such as infections, if they develop.
The condition often worsens for 2 to 4 days after birth with slow improvement thereafter. Some infants with severe respiratory distress syndrome will die, although this is rare on the first day of life. If it occurs, it usually happens between days 2 and 7.
Long-term complications may develop as a result of too much oxygen, high pressures delivered to the lungs, the severity of the condition itself, or periods when the brain or other organs did not receive enough oxygen.
Air or gas may build up in:
Other complications may include:
This disorder usually develops shortly after birth while the baby is still in the hospital. If you have given birth at home or outside a medical center, seek emergency attention if your baby develops any difficulty breathing.
Cloherty J, Stark A, Eichenwald E. Manual of Neonatal Care. 6th ed. Lippincott, Wilkins and Williams; 2008.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885