What is transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Transient tachypnea, also known as TTN, is a respiratory disease that happens when the infant's lungs have too much fluid in them at birth. This makes it difficult for the baby to breathe well. While inside the mother, a developing fetus does not use the lungs to breathe — all oxygen comes from the blood vessels of the placenta. During this time, the baby's lungs are filled with fluid.

Causes of transient tachypnea of the newborn

Causes of transient tachypnea of the newborn may include:

  • Having a rapid birth
  • Being born to a mother with diabetes
  • Waiting too long to have the umbilical cord clamped

Risk factors for transient tachypnea of the newborn

Babies who are born prematurely often don't have fully developed lungs. This makes it more likely that their lungs will be full of fluid when these babies are born. Babies who are born through a C-section or with a very rapid vaginal birth also are more at risk for developing this condition. The normal vaginal birthing process can squeeze excess fluid out of the lungs.

Symptoms of transient tachypnea of the newborn

When there's fluid in the lungs, it can be difficult for the baby to breathe on their own. The symptoms normally show up within the first few hours after birth. Other symptoms of TTN include:

  • Skin pulling into or under the ribs with every round of breath
  • Fast, difficult breathing of more than 60 breaths a minute
  • Grunting or moaning sounds when the baby breathes out
  • Blue skin around the mouth and nose
  • Flared nostrils

Diagnosis of transient tachypnea of the newborn

Transient tachypnea of the newborn usually lasts fewer than 24 hours if a doctor diagnoses it early. Diagnostic tests include:

  • Chest X-ray - the lungs show a streaked appearance and appear over-inflated.
  • Complete blood count - blood from a vein or a heel is checked for signs of infection.
  • Pulse oximetry - checks the level of oxygen in a baby's foot or hand.

Treatments for transient tachypnea of the newborn

Babies diagnosed with transient tachypnea of the newborn need close monitoring. The doctor will watch their heart rate, how fast they're breathing and their oxygen levels. Often, everything returns to normal within 72 hours without treatments.

Treatments may include:

  • Oxygen therapy - gives the baby extra air either through a tube in their nose or with a plastic oxygen hood.
  • Ventilator - this is a machine that can take the place of the baby's lungs while they start breathing again.
  • IV fluid - doctors may prescribe an IV fluid, so the baby doesn't get dehydrated.

Tube feedings may also be necessary if the baby's breathing rate is too high, because of the risk of aspiration of the food. After 72 hours, symptoms are usually gone. If not, the baby's doctors usually check for signs of infection or other medical problems that might cause difficulty breathing.

Recovery from transient tachypnea of the newborn

Babies usually recover fully from transient tachypnea of the newborn. Once you bring your child home from the hospital, you might want to closely monitor their breathing. This helps you ensure that they're not showing any signs of a problem. If your baby has any sort of breathing issues, contact the doctor or call 911 to seek medical attention for your infant immediately.

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