Pulmonary hypertension is a complication related to the heart, lungs, and blood pressure. It can affect adults but it is generally more serious when it appears in children or newborns. When it occurs in newborns, it is referred to as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). PPHN occurs when blood does not flow adequately to the lungs of the newborn. It is a condition occurring roughly in one out of every one thousand newborns. It can be a very serious condition that could result in lifelong damage for the newborn or even death.
There are several potential causes for persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Diseases or infections can cause PPHN, but it is often the case that it occurs as a result of complications during pregnancy or delivery. PPHN can occur due to low oxygen levels associated with stressful or intensive delivery periods. More than likely, PPHN developed as a result of low oxygen levels during birth which could occur from complications with the delivery in which the umbilical cord becomes tangled around the baby’s neck. Complications during delivery might also result from too much anesthesia or the types of drugs the mother was taking during the pregnancy.
Possible causes of PPHN could include:
- Perinatal asphyxia
- Complications with the umbilical cord
- Diseases or infections
- Medication or anesthesia
- Low blood pressure or oxygen levels in the mother
- Failure to switch from amniotic breathing to pulmonary breathing
- Low blood sugar
There are several symptoms which might indicate that a baby is suffering from persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Many of these symptoms are indicative of a lack of adequate supply of oxygen. If the baby appears sickly or to have a purple color (cyanosis), this could indicate perinatal asphyxia or PPHN.
Potential symptoms indicative of PPHN could include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breaths
- Weakness or lack of crying
There are several diagnostic techniques used to identify persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Some of the most prevalent diagnostic techniques are imaging techniques such as x-rays of the chest, ECGs, and ultrasounds. It is possible that infants exhibiting symptoms of PPHN could have other serious conditions. The best way to diagnose PPHN is to check the pressure of the blood in the heart. High blood pressure levels are indicative of PPHN or other serious conditions.
Multiple treatments exist for persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Many infants exhibiting the symptoms of PPHN or perinatal asphyxia are sent to a neonatal intensive care unit for treatment. One of the most common methods is to treat the lack of oxygen directly by supplying oxygen through a mask, a hood, or direct intubation.
In some cases, medications are used to dilate veins or otherwise increase the oxygen supply to the lungs and heart. Other compounds such as nitric oxide are used to dilate blood vessels while other drugs might function by reducing fluid in the body to ease the amount the heart and lungs must work. All treatments should be closely monitored by a medical professional.
The effects of PPHN could potentially affect the infant for the rest of his or her life. The damages done could result in permanent damage to vital organs including the heart, lungs, and brain. Neonatal damage has the potential to carry on into adulthood, often manifesting itself in developmental problems, poor physical health, poor motor skills, or other complications that require extra attention.
There are several physical effects associated with PPHN. These mostly appear later in life when the child has grown and suffers from weak lungs. Other physical effects associated with PPHN are a loss of hearing and the dizziness and speech impediments that might coincide with that. More than likely, these physical ailments will affect the child’s ability to function normally and will require special education.
Another serious aspect of PPHN is the neurological effects it has on the developing newborn. PPHN can be responsible for developmental delays, poor cognitive function, and seizures. These are serious problems that will often last for the entire lifetime of the newborn.
PPHN Legal Implications
There have been many advancements in the treatment of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). However, there are many incidents in which PPHN develops as a result of poor practices. If your child has developed PPHN, or has physical or neurological deficiencies due to neonatal complications, it is best to consult a birth injury attorney who has the experience to guide you through the complex process of receiving appropriate compensation.
Steinhorn, Robin. “Neonatal Pulmonary Hypertension.”Pediatric Critical Care Medicine : A Journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 13 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2843001/>.
Kohnle, Diane. “Department of Pediatrics.”Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn.NYU Langone Medical Center.Web. 13 Jan. 2015. <http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/persistent-pulmonary-hypertension-newborn>.
“Health Topics.”Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.Web. 13 Jan. 2015. <http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/p/pulmonary-hypertension/>.