High-Risk Newborns - Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) is a term for a mild respiratory problem of babies that begins after birth and lasts about three days. Other terms for TTN are "wet lungs" or type II respiratory distress syndrome.
- "transient" means temporary
- "tachypnea" means fast breathing rate
It is thought that slow absorption of the fluid in the fetal lungs causes TTN. This fluid makes taking in oxygen harder and the baby breathes faster to compensate.
Only a small percentage of all newborns develop TTN. Although premature babies can have TTN, most babies with this problem are full-term. The condition may be more likely to develop in babies delivered by cesarean section because the fluid in the lungs does not get squeezed out as in a vaginal birth.
The following are the most common symptoms of transient tachypnea of the newborn. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- rapid breathing rate (over 60 breaths/minute)
- grunting sounds with breathing
- flaring of the nostrils
- retractions (pulling in at the ribs with breathing)
The symptoms of TTN may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.
Chest x-rays are often used to help diagnose TTN. On x-ray, the lungs show a streaked appearance and appear over-inflated. X-rays are a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. However, it may be difficult to tell whether the problem is TTN or another kind of respiratory problem such as respiratory distress syndrome (also known as hyaline membrane disease). Often, TTN is diagnosed when symptoms suddenly resolve by the third day of life.
Specific treatment for transient tachypnea of the newborn will be determined by your baby's physician based on:
- your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the condition
- your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- supplemental oxygen given by mask on the baby's face or by placing the baby under an oxygen hood
- blood tests (to measure blood oxygen levels)
- continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) - a mechanical breathing machine that pushes a continuous flow of air or oxygen to the airways to help keep tiny air passages in the lungs open.
Tube feedings may also be necessary if the baby's breathing rate is too high, because of the risk of aspiration of the food.
Once TTN goes away, the baby usually recovers quickly and has no increased risk for additional respiratory problems.