Meconium aspiration syndrome is a leading cause of severe illness and death in a newborn. The possibility of inhaling meconium occurs in about 5-10% of births. It typically occurs when the fetus is stressed during labor, especially when the infant is past its due date. Meconium aspiration syndrome is a serious condition in which a newborn breathes a mixture of meconium (first feces or stool) and amniotic fluid into the lungs around the time of delivery.
Treatment of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
The newborn’s mouth should be suctioned as soon as the head can be seen during delivery.
Further treatment is necessary if there is thick meconium staining and fetal distress. A tube is placed in the infant’s trachea and suction is applied as the endotracheal tube is withdrawn. This procedure is repeated until meconium is no longer seen in the suction contents.
The infant may be placed in the special care nursery or newborn intensive care unit.
Other treatments may include:
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Breathing machine to keep the lungs inflated
- Use of a warmer to maintain body temperature
- Tapping on the chest to loosen secretions
If there have been no signs of fetal distress during pregnancy and the baby is a vigorous full-term newborn, experts recommend against deep suctioning of the windpipe for fear of causing a certain type of pneumonia. Occasionally, a saline solution is used to wash the airway of particularly thick meconium.
Causes of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Stress during labor can cause increased movement of the infant’s intestines and relaxation of the anal sphincter, causing meconium to pass into the surrounding amniotic fluid. If the infant breathes while still in the uterus or while still covered by this fluid after birth, the mixture can enter the lungs and partially or completely block the infant’s airways.
Risk factors include:
- Fetal distress
- Decreased oxygen to the infant while in the uterus
- Diabetes in the pregnant mother
- Difficult delivery
- High blood pressure in the pregnant mother
Risk factors should be identified as early as possible. If the mother’s water broke at home, she should tell the health care provider whether the fluid was clear or stained with a dark substance.
Fetal monitoring is started so that any signs of fetal distress can be recognized early. Immediate intervention in the delivery room can sometimes help prevent this condition.
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Brain damage due to lack of oxygen
- Breathing difficulty that lasting for several days
- Collapsed lung
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn
(All information is provided courtesy of A.D.A.M., Inc. accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org).
Anyone who has been the victim of a birth trauma that has resulted in meconium aspiration syndrome, as the result of medical negligence, is eligible to recover medical and hospital expenses to cover the care of the child. The first step is to have your case evaluated by an experienced law firm to find out your legal options.