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1 in 700 babies becomes affected by a condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn where the pulmonary artery bypasses the lungs and thus the baby doesn't get enough oxygen. Less than 20% of those affected die and 20% of survivors have long term complications. In a fetus, the pulmonary artery bypasses the lungs as oxygen is derived from the umbilical cord. Once the baby is born, the lung pressure drops and allows normal functioning. Persistent pulmonary hypertension occurs when the lung pressure stays high and can remain high for hours, days or weeks following birth. Treatment involves being placed on a ventilator to avoid respiratory distress. Medication can be given to increase blood pressure to stabilize pressure between lungs and the rest of the body. A last resort is surgery to install a heart-lung machine which can have serious side effects. Almost 1 in 5 babies with the condition dies. The cause of the condition is unknown. A possible causes is stress from the mother's body during pregnancy caused by conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or late delivery. Other stresses derived from the infant could include aspiration of meconium, anemia, severe pneumonia, low blood sugar and birth asphyxia. Symptoms include rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, flaring nostrils, grunting and bluish hue to the skin. Lack of oxygen in newborns will first affect the kidneys, liver, heart and finally the brain.
Source: summary of medical news story as reported by Times Argus
About: Persistent pulmonary hypertension needs rapid diagnosis and treatment
Date: 26 December 2004
Source: Times Argus
Author: Jane Brody
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