Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension

Persistent pulmonary hypertension, also called persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN) or persistent fetal circulation syndrome, is a serious breathing condition for newborn infants. Its cause is unknown.

At birth, the absorption of oxygen normally changes over from coming through the placenta to coming directly through the lungs. The blood vessels in the lungs are very constricted during pregnancy, whereas, at birth, those vessels dilate and begin processing oxygen and carbon dioxide.

This requires that major changes take place in the heart and its surrounding blood vessels. When these changes do not take place properly, several signs will become evident. They include breathing problems such as rapid or slow breathing, blue skin color, hands and feet become cool to the touch, low blood pressure, and low oxygen in the blood.

Blood testing, pulse oximetry, x-ray, and echocardiography will be used to confirm the diagnosis of PPHN. At that point, the infant will be given increased oxygen, may be given nitric oxide treatments, and possibly put on a ventilator and temporarily on a heart-lung bypass machine.

The baby’s lung may take weeks to recover, during which time he/she will be highly susceptible to infection.

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