Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
Oxygen is needed in every cell of the 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, bypassing the lungs. Once the baby is born, the baby's lungs should take over. When this does not occur, oxygen bypasses the lungs and cannot 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.
Circulatory System of Infant
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PPHN can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
An event or illness during pregnancy or childbirth, such as:
- Meconium aspiration syndrome (the baby inhales meconium—the first stool—prior to or shortly after birth)
- Severe pneumonia
- Low blood sugar
- Birth asphyxia (loss of oxygen to the fetus during delivery)
- Respiratory distress syndrome —caused by lungs that have not fully developed
- Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by the mother during pregnancy
- Late trimester maternal use of antidepressants, especially SSRIs
- Amniotic fluid leak
- Low amniotic fluid— oligohydramnios
- Abnormal lung development as a result of congenital diaphragmatic hernia or Potter syndrome
- Stress during pregnancy
- Isolated condition with an unknown cause
Last reviewedAugust 2014by 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.