Meconium aspiration is also known as meconium aspiration syndrome. The aspirated meconium can completely block the newborn’s airways. As a result, he/she may find it difficult to breathe. It may further lead to chemical irritation in the lung tissue, airway obstruction, and inactivation of surfactant.
Meconium is the intestinal discharge excreted by the baby after birth. If there are complications in the delivery process, the amniotic fluid is stained with meconium before birth, which may be aspirated by the baby. Meconium aspiration in a fetus can occur before or during the delivery and needs immediate attention. Meconium is dark green in color and sticky, and if it is inhaled into the lungs, the baby may have this problem.
Signs and Symptoms
Babies suffer from this problem due to infections within the uterus. Usually, the more meconium a neonate inhales, more severe the condition becomes.
Some symptoms are:
- Color of the infant’s body becomes either blue (cyanosis) or green.
- Baby may experience rapid breathing or transient cessation of respiration.
- Heart rate becomes lower before birth.
- Baby becomes weak and limp.
Thanks to the rapid progress in medical science, there are advanced treatment options available now for most complicated diseases. To prevent meconium aspiration in babies, there are some therapies, which include:
- Oxygen therapy using oxygen hood or ventilation
- Use of antibiotic drugs
- Use of surfactant and inhalation of nitric oxide
Sometimes meconium aspiration may lead to aspiration pneumonia. In such cases, lung rescue therapy is applicable. Let us take a look at various therapies used as a treatment.
Use of DeLee Suction Apparatus
For immediate treatment DeLee suction apparatus should be put in the mouth of the baby before it starts breathing or crying.
In this therapy, the blockage removal is achieved by utilizing an artificial surfactant in the lungs.
High-frequency Oscillation (HFO)
A special ventilator delivers a small amount of air filled with extra oxygen into the lungs of the baby at higher frequencies.
In this therapy, nitric oxide is added to the oxygen in the ventilator. This ventilator enlarges the blood vessels and helps in providing sufficient blood flow and oxygen to the lungs of the baby.
Other Treatment Methods
- Using a warmer to maintain body temperature
- Lightly tapping on the chest to loosen secretions
- Using saline solution to clear and wash the airway of thick meconium.
Prevention is always better than cure. To save the neonate from this disorder, one should take certain preventive measures. For example, if the pregnant woman faces any difficulty, she should inform the gynecologist/obstetrician. Regular evaluation is necessary, such as physical examination and chest X-ray should be taken. If BP, perfusion, or O2 saturation of the baby suddenly worsens, then the doctor should be informed immediately.