WellSpan Home

Premature Infant: Treating Underdeveloped Lungs

Topic Overview

Particularly when an infant is born before 36 weeks' gestation, the lungs are immature, and the body has limited muscle strength and energy for breathing. So the premature infant may not get enough oxygen. This can cause serious health problems. It is common at birth for a premature infant to need oxygen therapy, a ventilator, and/or medicine. These can help the baby absorb oxygen and breathe.

Infants whose lungs have been quickly matured with corticosteroid treatment before birth have a lot fewer problems than those who are not treated. With this treatment, the mother gets a series of shots of corticosteroids before she gives birth.

Infants with underdeveloped lungs often lack surfactant. This is a substance that coats the airways and prevents them from collapsing and sticking together. When premature lungs are treated with surfactant after birth, the infant's blood oxygen levels usually improve within minutes. Surfactant treatment reduces the risk and the severity of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in premature infants. It also reduces the overall risk of death.footnote 1 Surfactant also helps treat RDS.

Unlike corticosteroid treatment before birth, giving corticosteroids to a baby after birth is losing favor among experts. Current research is looking at how this medicine can be safely used to improve lung function without causing other problems. (It can cause neurological problems, gastrointestinal bleeding and damage, blood sugar problems, and high blood pressure.)

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Diseases and injuries of the fetus and newborn. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 605-643. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Other Works Consulted

  • Engle WA, Committee on Fetus and Newborn (2008). Surfactant-replacement therapy for respiratory distress in the preterm and term neonate. Pediatrics, 121(2): 419-432.
  • Soll R, Özek E (2010). Prophylactic protein free synthetic surfactant for preventing morbidity and mortality in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerJennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

Current as ofMay 4, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×