While in the womb, babies get their oxygen from the placenta, so there's no need for their bodies to circulate blood to the lungs for oxygenation. Instead, the blood is sent back to the heart via a fetal blood vessel known as the ductus arteriosus. After birth, the ductus arteriosus is supposed to close permanently to allow blood to circulate to the lungs.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is a medical condition that occurs when an infant's ductus arteriosus blood vessel fails to close or fails to close properly after birth, directing blood away from the infant's lungs. This prevents proper oxygenation and harms tissues in the brain and other organs.
Severe PPHN affects approximately two out every 1,000 live births, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it is usually diagnosed when symptoms such as difficulty breathing, bluish skin, elevated heart rate, low blood oxygen levels, heart murmurs, and rapid breathing are observed.
PPHN can be caused by stress during pregnancy and a difficult childbirth. Other potential causes include:
- Failure to treat fetal or maternal infections
- Oxygen deprivation during delivery
- Low or leaking amniotic fluid
- Low blood sugar
- Maternal use of SSRI antidepressants
- Maternal use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Meconium aspiration syndrome
- Congenital disease and defects such as Potter syndrome
Infants with PPHN require immediate treatment to avoid devastating complications. These can include heart failure, brain bleeds, kidney damage, shock, organ damage, hearing problems, developmental delays, and even death.
Did Your Infant Suffer Birth Injuries Related to PPHN?
If your infant was diagnosed with PPHN that you believe was caused by medical negligence in your prenatal care or during delivery, you may be eligible to seek compensation for damages, including medical bill related to the birth injury. Contact Holton Law Firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation about your case.