Why Do Babies Get Pulmonary Hypertension?

pulmonary hypertension - Sriramakrishnahospital

Pulmonary hypertension is a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure in lungs. While it can affect people of all ages, a specific form, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), can occur in infants shortly after birth.

What is pulmonary hypertension in newborns?

A baby receives oxygen from their mother through the placenta and umbilical cord before they are born, so they do not make use of their lungs for breathing. Amniotic fluid fills the lungs during pregnancy, and the arteries and veins that carry blood from the heart to the lungs are narrowed or closed. 

A newborn’s lungs fill with air rather than fluid when they take a deep breath or cry. The blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to lungs open when the lungs fill with air in it. This allows oxygen to be carried back to the heart, where it is pumped to the brain and the rest of the body, after the umbilical cord is cut. Now, there is less pressure in the blood vessels and lungs. The blood vessels may not properly open up, keeping the pressure inside of them high, if there is an issue that arises around the time of the birth that prevents this process from happening which refers to the pulmonary hypertension at birth.

What are the possible causes of pulmonary hypertension?

In PPHN, this change from fetal to newborn circulation does not happen smoothly. The pulmonary arteries (which are the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs) remain narrowed, leading to high blood pressure in the lungs. This reduces blood flow to the lungs, affecting oxygen uptake and causing a breathing problem in newbornsHowever the exact cause of pulmonary hypertension is not known. Here are few of the causes that might possibly lead to PPHN:

Underdeveloped lungs:

In some cases, the baby’s lungs may not be fully developed, impacting their ability to expand and function properly after birth. 

Meconium Aspiration:

If the baby inhales meconium (fetal stool) at the time of birth, it can irritate the lungs and eventually lead to pulmonary hypertension. 

Congenital heart defects:

Certain congenital heart defects can disrupt blood flow patterns and increase the risk of PPHN. 

Other medical conditions:

Infections, lung diseases, and conditions like congenital diaphragmatic hernia (a birth defect where the diaphragm, the muscle separating the chest from the abdomen, is incomplete), can also increase the risk. 

What are the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension of newborns?

Early diagnosis and treatment are important for pulmonary hypertension for newborns. Here are the some signs to watch for newborn:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Low oxygen in the blood
  • Bluish skin color
  • Grunting sounds while breathing

In case you notice these signs in your newborn immediately, seek immediate medical help from the neonatology hospital in Coimbatore

What are the treatment options for pulmonary hypertension in newborns?

Treatment for PPHN focuses on improving blood flow to the lungs and increasing oxygen levels in the baby’s blood. Several treatment options can include:

Oxygen therapy:

Providing supplemental oxygen helps to improve oxygenation. 


Some prescribed medications can help relax and open up the pulmonary arteries, allowing for easier blood flow.

Ventilatory support:

In severe cases, a mechanical ventilator may be needed to help the baby breathe. 

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO):

In the most critical situations, ECMO, a technique that bypasses the lungs and heart to oxygenate the blood, may be used. The specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of the PPHN and the baby’s overall health condition.

What are the long term effects of pulmonary hypertension in children when treatment is delayed?

When newborns with PPHN receive delayed treatment few complications may develop, that include:

  • Difficulty in disabilities 
  • Issues with development
  • Issues with hearing like deafness
  • Unable to perform physical activities

What are the diagnostic procedures for pulmonary hypertension for newborns?

To diagnose pulmonary hypertension in newborns, a set of diagnostic tests may be recommended:

  • Pulse oximeter:

This test helps in analyzing the oxygen levels in the blood.

  • Arterial blood gas (ABG):

ABG is a test that determines how the baby’s body delivers oxygen. 

  • Chest X-rays:

A chest X-ray can help in diagnosing the size of the lung in case of any enlargement. 

  • Ultrasound:

This examination can be performed to check for any bleeding in the internal organs. 

What is the long-term outlook for pulmonary hypertension in newborns?

With immediate diagnosis and treatment, babies tend to recover completely. But in cases when the treatment is delayed there can be few complications like chronic lung disease or right heart problems. Early treatment and with best medical care the healthy future of the babies.

How long is the recovery for PPHN?

With the right treatment for PPHN, your baby’s lungs may take a few weeks or months to completely recover. During this recovery period it is important to prevent your baby from catching cold or flu. 

Does pulmonary hypertension in newborns go away on their own?

Pulmonary hypertension is a life threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. With early diagnosis and treatment you can save your baby from any complications and can recover completely from the condition.

Important Takeaway:

While PPHN can be a serious condition, advancements in neonatal care have significantly improved outcomes for the affected babies. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are key factors in helping these little ones breathe. Consult the pulmonary hypertension specialists in Coimbatore if your child is showing signs of pulmonary hypertension. 

Pulmonary Hypertension - Sriramakrishnahospital

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