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Treatment of Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is characterized by surfactant deficiency in the premature baby’s lung. The condition is generally progressive in that the breathing difficulties experienced by the baby begin immediately at birth and worsen over time. The severity of RDS and its progression have to do with the maturity of the lung. As with most conditions affecting premature babies, the more premature the baby, the more likely RDS is to be severe. Treatment of RDS may include surfactant replacement therapy and supplemental oxygen delivered by one of these ventilation methods:

  • continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
  • conventional mechanican ventilation (CMV)
  • high frequency oscillation (HFO)
  • high frequency jet ventilation (HFJV)
Respiratory Distress Syndrome X-ray Before and After Surfactant
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The first X-ray was taken before surfactant was administered. The lungs look quite dense and white due to the collapse of the alveoli. The amount of air in the lungs is very small. The second X-ray was taken after the administration of surfactant. The lungs appear darker as they now contain more air.
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Andrew James, MBChB, MBI, FRACP, FRCPC

Jaques Belik, MD, FRCPC