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During fetal development, most of your baby’s blood bypasses the developing lungs because the placenta exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide. The placenta no longer supports your baby’s oxygen exchange after birth, so blood must go to the lungs to pick up oxygen so it can be delivered to the rest of the body. If there is abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs, or pulmonary hypertension, there can be a lack of blood flow to the lungs. This can result in a lack of oxygen delivery to the organs of the body.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), or persistent fetal circulation, is a condition in which a newborn's normal blood circulation maintains the circulation of a fetus. It is one of the causes of pulmonary hypertension in a newborn. It is most likely to occur after a difficult birth or if a baby has lowered oxygen levels during birth from another complication.
Each baby with pulmonary hypertension may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms include:
Your child's pediatrician will perform a physical exam immediately after birth to check for any signs of illness. If pulmonary hypertension is suspected, a diagnosis can be confirmed with the following exams and tests:
In the case of pulmonary hypertension in newborns, the goal of treatment is to improve blood flow to the lungs so that oxygen can be delivered throughout the body. If your baby does not have enough oxygen circulating to support the organs (including the brain) for a prolonged period of time, he or she may develop long-term health problems.
Pulmonary hypertension in newborns is treated with the following at Riley at IU Health:
Due to the specialized nature of these treatments, your baby will undergo treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). An expert care team of doctors, respiratory therapists and pediatric specialists will monitor your baby’s condition around the clock and provide immediate care if there are any changes.
When it is safe for your baby to leave the NICU, you will meet with a multidisciplinary team to discuss follow-up care. Hearing problems and developmental delays can be common in babies who have had pulmonary hypertension. If your baby is expected to have any added health concerns or neurodevelopmental delays as a result of pulmonary hypertension, you will meet with specialists who can help manage those conditions, such as an audiologist (hearing specialist), a speech-language pathologist or a developmental pediatrician.
Visit the trusted websites below to learn more about persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This nonprofit organization works to improve the lives of those affected by pulmonary hypertension by promoting education and research and connecting patients to local support groups.
The National Institutes of Health provides an in-depth overview of pulmonary hypertension, including what it is, who is at risk and what it is like living with the condition.
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