Table of Contents

Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome a.k.a. Infantile Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS)

What is neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)?

IRDS is a breathing condition that effects primarily premature babies born six weeks or more before their due date. Premature babies do not have enough surfactant to coat their lungs, resulting in difficulties breathing and/or collapsed lungs. If there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain and other vital organs, then there can be permanent damage to those areas of the body.

In the U.S., an estimated 250,000 babies are born prematurely, with 50,000 of those born with IRDS each year. Of those 50,000, 5,000 end up succumbing to the condition. IRDS effects male and female babies equally.

What are the symptoms of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)?

Symptoms of IRDS are usually present at birth. They are:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Lack of surfactant in the lungs
  • Collapsed lung

What causes neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)?

There are two causes of IRDS.  Surfactant is not formed until later in pregnancy, so premature babies may be born without it, causing dysfunctional air cells in the lungs. Second, surfactant protein-B is caused by an abnormal pulmonary surfactant B gene which is inherited by both parents.

How is neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS) diagnosed?

IRDS is diagnosed at birth, using a physical exam, CT scans, or chest x-rays. Additionally, an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, and blood tests may be used, the latter being used to test oxygen in the blood.

What are the treatments for neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)?

Treatments for IRDS include:

  • Physical or mechanical breathing assistance (ventilation)
  • FDA approved drugs (synthetic surfactants):
    • Colfosceril palmitate (Brand Name: Exosurf Neonatal)
    • Beractant (Brand Name: Survanta)
    • Surfactant TA
    • Human Surf
    • Poractant alpha (Brand Name: Curosurf Intratracheal Suspension)
  • IV fluids
  • Pain/sleeping medications
  • Treatment for infections

Where can I find out more about neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)?

Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome a.k.a. Infantile Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS) Articles