Particularly when an infant is born before 36 weeks'
gestation, the premature infant's 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 medical complications. It is common at birth for a premature
infant to need
oxygen therapy, a
ventilator, and/or medicine to help with oxygen
absorption and breathing.
Infants whose lungs have been quickly
matured with corticosteroid treatment before birth
(antenatal corticosteroids, given by injection to the mother) have
a lot fewer medical complications than those who are not treated.
By Neil Osterweil
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then teenagers
must be from a galaxy far, far, away indeed.
At least it can seem that way when parents and adolescents try
to communicate with one another. Sometimes, in the heat of an argument or even
a casual how-was-your-day conversation, that kid slouching in the corner can
seem like a speck floating in the void millions of light years away.
It's not that parents and their adolescent offspring can't
communicate, but that...
Infants with underdeveloped lungs often lack surfactant, a substance that coats the airways, preventing
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 as well as the overall risk of death.1
Surfactant also helps treat RDS.
Unlike corticosteroid treatment
before birth, giving corticosteroids to a baby after birth (postnatal) is losing favor in the medical community. Current
research is focusing on how this medicine can be safely used to improve lung
function without causing neurological deficits, gastrointestinal bleeding and
damage, blood sugar problems, and high blood pressure.
Fraser J, et al. (2004). ABC of preterm birth:
Respiratory complications of preterm birth. BMJ,
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
April 14, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
April 14, 2011
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