Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) is a breathing disorder due to the accumulation of fluids in the lungs. The condition is also known as wet lungs of newborns, transient RDS, neonatal transient tachypnea, retained fetal lung fluid, and prolonged transition.
TTN may cause mild breathing problems in babies during the first few hours of life. Although babies require breathing and feeding support during transient tachypnea, the condition may resolve without any complications within 24 to 72 hours (1).
Read this post to know more about the causes, risk factors, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes of the newborn’s transient tachypnea.
Causes Of Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn
During fetal life, the baby’s lungs are filled with fluid essential for fetal growth. The hormonal changes that occur before birth signal the baby’s lungs to reabsorb some lung fluid. Additional fluid is reabsorbed while the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. The remaining fluid is reabsorbed when the baby is delivered and breathes on their own.
The baby may develop tachypnea if the lungs do not entirely reabsorb the fluid or if there is excess fluid in the lungs. The presence of fluid causes inadequate oxygen to reach the lungs, causing the baby to breathe harder and faster (2). This condition is called transient (short-lived) tachypnea (rapid breathing) of the newborn.
Risk Factors For Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn
The first few breaths of the baby clear away the remaining lung fluid. Babies may continue to have fluid in the lungs if the reabsorption is interrupted before birth.
The following factors may increase the risk of developing TTN in some newborns (3).
- Premature babies are more vulnerable to transient tachypnea since their lungs may have more fluid than full-term babies.
- Maternal asthma and diabetes may increase the risk of the condition.
- Twins and male babies may have an increased risk of TTN.
- C-section delivery, especially without labor, may cause a higher risk of developing transient tachypnea since babies may not have adequate hormonal changes to trigger lung fluid reabsorption.
Although some babies may develop transient tachypnea after birth, it usually resolves without any problems. Babies born through vaginal delivery usually do not develop TTN.
Signs And Symptoms Of Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn
The symptoms and signs of transient tachypnea may vary in each newborn, depending on their term and amount of fluid in the lungs. You may notice the following symptoms and signs when a newborn with transient tachypnea breathes (4).
- Rapid breathing, usually more than 60 breaths in a minute
- Nose flaring
- Grunting sounds
- Rib pulling
- Cyanosis (bluish skin) on limbs, lips, and around the mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms in your newborn, seek prompt medical care. These symptoms can also be present in other medical conditions. You may ask the healthcare provider for an exact diagnosis.
Diagnosis Of Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn
Although the signs and symptoms could help diagnose transient tachypnea in newborns, it is confirmed by chest X-ray. Streaked and overinflated lungs on X-ray may indicate the condition. Blood tests measure complete blood count to exclude any signs of infections. Pulse oximetry could be used to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood (5).
Lung infections, such as pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome, may have similar symptoms. Transient tachypnea goes away within a few hours or days as the lung fluid is cleared. Thus, the duration of the symptoms may also help diagnose the condition.
Treatment For Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn
Treatment strategies may vary based on the baby’s age, severity of symptoms, and health status.
Babies could be admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and observed continuously for breathing rate, heart rate, and oxygen levels until the transient tachypnea resolves. Treatment options may include the following measures (6).
- Oxygen supplementation through a mask, nasal cannula (prongs), or by keeping the baby under an oxygen hood could be performed until the breathing rate becomes normal.
- Continuous positive airway pressure uses a mechanical breathing machine to ensure continuous oxygen supply through the baby’s airways.
- Tube feeding may be given until the breathing rate is normal since babies may aspirate food into their lungs during rapid breathing. Breast milk or formula feed can be provided through orogastric or nasogastric tubes.
- Intravenous (IV) fluids are given to ensure nutrition and hydration if tube feeding is not possible.
It may take up to three days for the symptoms to resolve in some babies. Usually, babies are discharged 24 hours after their breathing rate and other symptoms become normal. They may not have any specific risk of developing breathing issues or any long-term complications due to TTN.