Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Premature Infant: Treating Underdeveloped Lungs
Particularly when an infant is born before 36 weeks'
gestation, the premature infant's lungs are immature,
and the body has limited muscle strength and energy for breathing. So the
premature infant may not get enough oxygen. This can
cause serious medical complications. It is common at birth for a premature
infant to need
oxygen therapy, a
ventilator, and/or medicine to help with oxygen
absorption and breathing.
Infants whose lungs have been quickly
matured with corticosteroid treatment before birth
(antenatal corticosteroids, given by injection to the mother) have
a lot fewer medical complications than those who are not treated.
Infants with underdeveloped lungs often lack surfactant, a substance that coats the airways, preventing
them from collapsing and sticking together. When premature lungs are treated
with surfactant after birth, the infant's blood oxygen levels usually improve
within minutes. Surfactant treatment reduces the risk and the severity of
respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in premature
infants as well as the overall risk of death.1
Surfactant also helps treat RDS.
Unlike corticosteroid treatment
before birth, giving corticosteroids to a baby after birth (postnatal) is losing favor in the medical community. Current
research is focusing on how this medicine can be safely used to improve lung
function without causing neurological deficits, gastrointestinal bleeding and
damage, blood sugar problems, and high blood pressure.
Fraser J, et al. (2004). ABC of preterm birth:
Respiratory complications of preterm birth. BMJ,
April 14, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Genesis HealthCare System | 1-800-322-4762