Oxygen is needed in every cell of our body. It first enters the body through the lungs. The oxygen is then picked up by the blood flowing by the lungs. The blood brings oxygen to the rest of the body. In newborns with persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), the blood does not flow by the lungs.
The baby's lungs are not used during pregnancy. Instead, oxygen passes from the mother to the baby through the umbilical cord. This means most of the baby's blood does not need to pass by the lungs. Once the baby is born, the baby's lungs should take over. The blood flow should switch so that it will pass by the lungs. In babies with PPHN, this switch doesn't happen. The blood does not flow go to the lungs as it should. This means that oxygen can not move from the lungs to the rest of the body.
PPHN can be a very serious condition. It can cause both immediate and long-term health problems. It affects about one in every 500-1500 births.
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PPHN can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Factors that may increase your baby’s chance of developing PPHN include:
Your doctor will ask about your baby’s symptoms. Your pregnancy history may also be reviewed. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment for PPHN is typically administered by a doctor who specializes in newborn illness.
Treatment begins with correcting any related conditions. These conditions can include low blood sugar, low oxygen levels, low blood pressure, and low blood pH. Treatment options include:
A ventilator is a machine that will help your baby breathe. A tube will be placed in the baby's throat. The tube is collected to the ventilation machine. The ventilator will deliver oxygen with gentle pressure. The pressure will help keep the lungs open.
Nitric oxide is a gas. It may be delivered during ventilation. Nitric oxide may relax blood vessels. This will improve the flow of blood in the lungs.
There are a number of new medication that are being. One example is a medication called sildenafil (eg Viagra®). Small studies have shown positive results with sildenafil. However, larger studies are needed to confirm the benefits and safety of the medication.
ECMO is a machine that can take over the job of the lungs. It requires major surgery. ECMO may be done if your child has a severe cases of PPHN that is not responding to other treatments. This procedure is done to take some stress off of your baby's body. It can give your baby some time to heal.
Most cases of PPHN have no clear cause or are caused by uncontrollable events. For these cases there are no clear preventative steps. Some cases of PPHN may be prevented with proper prenatal care and good health of the mother during pregnancy. General tips for a healthy pregnancy include:
Last reviewed September 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.