Basics

Infants With Pulmonary Hypertension

Hypertension refers to a condition when the arteries get narrowed and the blood finds it difficult to flow through them normally. The pressure on the artery walls increases due to this narrowing of the blood vessels. A new born infant can also develop similar complications. It is called PPHN or Persistence Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborn. This disease or complication happens very rarely. Infants with pulmonary hypertension may have serious health complications in the long run.

When a new born baby cries immediately after the birth, it indicates that his lungs and heart are working properly and normal blood circulation has commenced. But, if the baby remains quiet and finds it difficult to breathe, it indicates that he/she may have PPHN.

In the womb, the baby receives the supply of oxygen and blood from it' mother's body.  After the birth, the lungs and heart in the infant's body take over the function of supplying oxygen and blood, respectively to the infant's body. It no longer requires the ductus arteriosus to give it the required supply of oxygen and blood.

In infants with pulmonary hypertension, the fetal circulation doesn’t switch to the new born infant's circulation involving the infant's lungs and heart. The ductus arteriosus remains open and as a result, the circulation is that of the fetal stage.

The blood that goes into the lungs is not able to pick up sufficient oxygen for vital organs like brain, liver, and kidneys. Though the baby continues to breathe, adequate oxygen doesn’t reach all the organs, creating the condition of pulmonary hypertension in infants. The increased requirement for oxygen is fulfilled by an additional exertion by the heart which works faster to increase the blood supply. It creates the possibility of hypertension.