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Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn

(Rapid Breathing of the Newborn; Neonatal Wet Lung Syndrome)


Arcangela Lattari Balest

, MD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2023 | Modified Sep 2023
Topic Resources

Transient tachypnea of the newborn is temporary rapid and sometimes labored breathing and often low blood oxygen levels due to excessive fluid in the lungs after birth.

  • This disorder can occur in premature newborns, or in full-term newborns who have certain risk factors.

  • Affected newborns breathe rapidly and may grunt when breathing out and may appear bluish or gray if they are not getting enough oxygen into their blood.

  • The diagnosis is based on breathing rate and difficulty and may be confirmed by a chest x-ray.

  • Some affected newborns need treatment with oxygen, and a few need assistance with breathing.

  • The characteristic feature of this disorder is that it is temporary (transient), and almost all affected newborns recover completely in 2 to 3 days.

Tachypnea means rapid breathing. Transient tachypnea means temporary rapid breathing.

Before birth, the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs are filled with fluid. Immediately after birth, the fluid must be cleared from the lungs so that the air sacs can fill with air and the newborn can breathe normally. Hormones released during labor cause the cells in the air sacs to begin absorbing fluid. Some of the fluid is squeezed out of the lungs by pressure on the chest during delivery. A majority of the fluid is rapidly reabsorbed directly by the cells lining the air sacs. If this fluid reabsorption does not occur rapidly, the air sacs continue to be partially filled with fluid and newborns may have difficulty breathing (respiratory distress).

Transient tachypnea of the newborn is more common among premature newborns Preterm (Premature) Newborns A preterm newborn is a baby delivered before 37 weeks of gestation. Depending on when they are born, preterm newborns may have underdeveloped organs that are not be ready to function outside... read more (delivered before 37 weeks of gestation Gestational Age Problems in newborns may develop Before birth while the fetus is growing During labor and delivery After birth About 10% of newborns need some special care after birth due to prematurity, problems... read more ) and full-term newborns (delivered between 37 weeks and 42 weeks of gestation) who have certain risk factors. For example, in full-term newborns, transient tachypnea is more common among those delivered via a cesarean delivery Cesarean Delivery Cesarean delivery is surgical delivery of a baby by incision through a woman’s abdomen and uterus. In the United States, up to 30% of deliveries are cesarean. Doctors use a cesarean delivery... read more Cesarean Delivery (C-section), especially one where the mother did not go into labor first. It is also more common among full-term newborns, particularly males, whose mother had diabetes Diabetes During Pregnancy For women who have diabetes before they become pregnant, the risks of complications during pregnancy depend on how long diabetes has been present and whether complications of diabetes, such... read more , asthma Asthma During Pregnancy The effect of pregnancy on asthma varies. Worsening of the disease is slightly more common than improvement, but most pregnant women do not have severe asthma attacks. (See also Asthma.) The... read more , or both during pregnancy.

Symptoms of Transient Tachypnea of Newborn

Newborns with transient tachypnea have trouble breathing almost immediately after birth. The most common symptom is rapid breathing (tachypnea).

Less frequent symptoms include retractions (pulling in of the chest muscles attached to the ribs and below the ribs during rapid breathing), flaring of the nostrils during breathing in, and grunting during breathing out.

Newborns may develop a bluish or gray discoloration of the skin and/or lips (cyanosis Cyanosis Cyanosis is a bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin resulting from an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis occurs when oxygen-depleted (deoxygenated) blood, which is bluish... read more ) if the level of oxygen in the blood becomes low. In newborns of color, the skin may change to colors such as yellow-gray, gray, or white. These changes may be more easily seen in the mucous membranes lining the inside of the mouth, nose, and eyelids.

Diagnosis of Transient Tachypnea of Newborn

Treatment of Transient Tachypnea of Newborn

  • Oxygen

  • Sometimes other measures to assist breathing

Newborns sometimes are given oxygen through a two-pronged tube placed in the nostrils so that they breathe air that contains more oxygen than the air in the room does.

Rarely, some newborns may need continuous positive airway pressure Obstructive sleep apnea Obstructive sleep apnea (CPAP—a technique allows newborns to breathe on their own while being given slightly pressurized oxygen or air given through prongs placed in the nostrils) and sometimes a ventilator Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more (a machine that helps air get in and out of the lungs).

Prognosis for Transient Tachypnea of Newborn

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