This disorder can occur in premature newborns, or in full-term newborns who have certain risk factors.
Affected newborns breathe rapidly and may grunt when breathing out and may appear bluish if they are not getting enough oxygen into their blood.
The diagnosis is based on breathing difficulty and may be confirmed by a chest x-ray.
The characteristic feature of this disorder is that it is temporary (transient), and almost all affected newborns recover completely in 2 to 3 days.
Some affected newborns need treatment with oxygen, and a few need assistance with breathing.
(See also Overview of General Problems in Newborns Overview of General Problems in Newborns Problems in newborns may develop Before birth while the fetus is growing During labor and delivery After birth About 10% of newborns need special care after birth due to prematurity, problems... read more .)
Tachypnea means rapid breathing. Transient tachypnea means temporary rapid breathing.
Transient tachypnea of the newborn is more common among premature newborns Premature Newborn A premature newborn is a baby delivered before 37 weeks of gestation. Depending on when they are born, premature newborns have underdeveloped organs, which may not be ready to function outside... read more (delivered before 37 weeks of gestation Gestational age Problems in newborns may develop Before birth while the fetus is growing During labor and delivery After birth About 10% of newborns need special care after birth due to prematurity, problems... read more ) and full-term newborns (delivered between 37 weeks and 42 weeks of gestation) who have certain risk factors. For example, in full-term newborns, transient tachypnea is more common after a cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery is surgical delivery of a baby by incision through a woman’s abdomen and uterus. In the United States, up to 30% of deliveries are cesarean. Doctors use a cesarean delivery... read more (C-section) and is especially likely to occur if the mother has not been in labor before a cesarean delivery (that is, a mother who has a scheduled caesarean delivery). It is also more common among full-term newborns whose mother had diabetes Diabetes During Pregnancy For women who have diabetes before they become pregnant, the risks of complications during pregnancy depend on how long diabetes has been present and whether complications of diabetes, such... read more , asthma Asthma During Pregnancy The effect of pregnancy on asthma varies. Worsening of the disease is slightly more common than improvement, but most pregnant women do not have severe asthma attacks. (See also Asthma.) The... read more , or both during pregnancy.
Before birth, the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs are filled with fluid. Immediately after birth, the fluid must be cleared from the lungs so that the air sacs can fill with air and the newborn can breathe normally. Hormones released during labor cause the cells in the air sacs to begin absorbing fluid. Some of the fluid is squeezed out of the lungs by pressure on the chest during a vaginal delivery. A majority of the fluid is rapidly reabsorbed directly by the cells lining the air sacs. If this fluid reabsorption does not occur rapidly, the air sacs continue to be partially filled with fluid and newborns may have difficulty breathing.
Newborns with transient tachypnea have trouble breathing (respiratory distress) almost immediately after birth. The most common symptom is rapid breathing (tachypnea).
Less frequent symptoms include retractions (pulling in of the chest muscles attached to the ribs and below the ribs during rapid breathing), flaring of the nostrils during breathing in, and grunting during breathing out. Newborns may develop a bluish discoloration of the skin and/or lips (cyanosis Cyanosis Cyanosis is a bluish discoloration of the skin resulting from an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis occurs when oxygen-depleted (deoxygenated) blood, which is bluish rather than... read more ) if the level of oxygen in the blood becomes low.
Other disorders may cause similar symptoms, such as infection in the blood (sepsis Sepsis in Newborns Sepsis is a serious bodywide reaction to infection spread through the blood. Newborns with sepsis appear generally ill—they are listless, do not feed well, often have a gray color, and may have... read more ), pneumonia Overview of Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection of the small air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) and the tissues around them. Pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Often, pneumonia is the final... read more , or respiratory distress syndrome Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Newborns Respiratory distress syndrome is a lung disorder in premature newborns in which the air sacs in their lungs do not remain open because a substance that coats the air sacs called surfactant is... read more in premature newborns, so doctors do a chest x-ray and blood tests and blood cultures to rule out these disorders.
Most newborns who have transient tachypnea survive and do well. But even with treatment, a small number of infants develop high blood pressure in the lungs (persistent pulmonary hypertension Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is a serious disorder in which the arteries to the lungs remain narrowed (constricted) after delivery, thus limiting the amount of blood flow... read more ) or collapsed lung (pneumothorax Pneumothorax in the Newborn Pneumothorax is a collection of air between the lung and the chest wall that develops when air leaks out of the lung. This disorder may develop in newborns who have lung disorders such as respiratory... read more ).
Most newborns with transient tachypnea recover completely within 2 to 3 days. Newborns sometimes need to be given oxygen through a two-pronged tube placed in the nostrils so that they breathe air that contains more oxygen than the air in the room does.
Rarely, some newborns may need continuous positive airway pressure Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops long enough to disrupt sleep and often temporarily decrease the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon dioxide... read more (CPAP—a technique allows newborns to breathe on their own while being given slightly pressurized oxygen or air given through prongs placed in the nostrils) and sometimes a ventilator Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more (a machine that helps air get in and out of the lungs).