Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), also called hyaline membrane disease, is the most common respiratory disorder of premature infants and affects, with different degrees of severity, many babies born before 28 weeks gestation. Babies with RDS experience difficulty in breathing due to the immaturity of the lung development and to insufficient production of surfactant.
Surfactant is a lubricating liquid lining the lungs, made of lipids (fats) and proteins that work together to enable the lungs to expand easily. If there is a lack of surfactant the baby will have difficulty breathing and therefore sufficient oxygen may not circulate properly in the body.
The resulting clinical signs and symptoms of RDS are:
Predisposing factors for RDS
In addition to gestational age, the major predisposing factors are:
RDS is treated by general supportive therapy, such as:
A number of factors can reduce the incidence of RDS in particular many mothers who go into early labour are given corticosteroids, that increase the baby's surfactant levels by stimulating production.