What is meconium aspiration syndrome?

Meconium aspiration syndrome is described as respiratory distress among newborns who have breathed in meconium inside the lungs earlier or during the time of birth.

Meconium is a dark greenish, sterile fecal material that is generated in the intestine prior to birth. Essentially, meconium is released only after birth when newborns start to feed. Nevertheless, as a response to stress such as low level of oxygen in the blood, the fetus might pass meconium into the amniotic fluid. In addition, stress might also urge the fetus to take in strong gasps, thus the meconium-containing amniotic fluid is inhaled into the lungs.

Meconium aspiration syndrome

An affected newborn will experience respiratory distress in which the child breathes in rapidly and draws in the inferior chest wall while inhaling and grunt while exhaling.

After the infant is delivered, the aspirated meconium can obstruct the airways and trigger areas of the lungs to breakdown. Oftentimes, the airways are partly blocked which allows air to reach the areas of the lung beyond the blockage but prevents it from being breathed out. The affected lung might overly expand that can result to rupture and eventually collapse of the lung. The air accumulates inside the chest cavity around the lung.

What are the symptoms?

An affected newborn will experience respiratory distress in which the child breathes in rapidly and draws in the inferior chest wall while inhaling and grunt while exhaling.

The skin appears bluish in appearance if the level of oxygen is diminished and might even have low blood pressure.

Management

During delivery, if the newborn is covered with meconium, appears limp and no longer breathing, the doctor will immediately suction the nose, mouth and throat to eliminate any meconium. A breathing tube is inserted into the windpipe to suction out any meconium present.

Newborns are treated using antibiotics due to the risk for infection and given supplemental oxygen and placed on a ventilator if needed. Oftentimes, repeated suctioning is performed in an attempt to eliminate more meconium. The newborns on ventilator are closely monitored for serious complications such as pneumothorax.

Many newborns with the syndrome are able to survive. Nevertheless, if the condition is severe, especially if it results to tenacious pulmonary hypertension, it can be deadly.

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