A baby’s time in utero is a critical period of development that spells long-term implications for his or her health after birth. The way that a single cell grows and evolves into an entire human being with organs, fingers, and toes, is simply miraculous. However, the process by which this occurs is extremely complex and rife with potential complications. One such complication, known as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS), can have serious consequences, including brain damage, lifelong health problems, and even death, if left undiagnosed or untreated.
The Basics of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
After a baby is born, he or she will secrete a dark green fecal substance called meconium. It is typical for the child to pass this fecal matter for several days following birth. However, in certain cases, a baby will pass meconium prior to birth while still in the uterus. When this occurs, meconium coalesces with amniotic fluid and can be inhaled into the lungs, which is known as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS). MAS can occur before, during, or just after birth, and is typically caused by some form of stress while in utero or during the delivery process.
Causes and Symptoms of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
The primary cause of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome is fetal distress, which is often linked to a reduction in oxygen being delivered to the baby. Cases of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome very often occur in pregnancies that extend beyond the due date of 40 weeks because placentas age and over time, are no longer able to deliver necessary oxygen. Additionally, MAS is common in babies whose mothers suffer from conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. MAS can also result from highly strenuous or long labors, particularly those in which physicians delay or fail to perform a C-section. Infections can also cause Meconium Aspiration Syndrome if left untreated.
The most prevalent symptom of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome is infant respiratory distress, which may manifest in rapid breathing. Other observable physical symptoms may include limpness, low blood pressure, and a condition known as cyanosis. Cyanosis is a bluish discoloration of the skin resulting from poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment
After a baby is born, a physician may diagnose Meconium Aspiration Syndrome using a number of methods and diagnostic tests. Initially, listening to breath sounds may reveal signs of abnormal respiration. To confirm the presence of MAS, a doctor may use an X-ray, a blood gas test, or an endoscopy of the larynx. If he or she confirms a diagnosis of MAS, emergency treatment is crucial. All meconium must be immediately extracted, which requires suction in the nose, mouth, throat, and trachea. Depending on the infant’s condition, he or she may require an oxygen bag or mask, or a ventilator. Antibiotics, oxygen therapy, or other treatments may be necessary to prevent further complications of MAS.
Complications of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome if Left Untreated
If Meconium Aspiration Syndrome goes undiagnosed or untreated, the repercussions can be devastating, if not deadly. If meconium is left in the lungs, it may lead to inflammation or infection. If it remains in the airways, the lungs can over-expand in an effort to compensate, which may result in a collapsed or ruptured lung. In other cases, MAS can lead to another condition, known as persistent pulmonary hypertension. In the worst of cases, MAS can result in severe brain damage or death.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our highly experienced pediatric and medical malpractice attorneys are dedicated to advocating for victims and families who suffer harm as a result of medical negligence. Over the years, we have successfully recovered millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for those who have suffered birth injuries, wrongful birth, and other health problems resulting from obstetrician malpractice. If you or someone you love is in this precarious position, contact our offices today for a cost-free consultation. One of our highly knowledgeable lawyers will be happy to answer all of your questions and outline your available legal options.
For additional information pertaining to Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, access the following resource: Medline Plus – Meconium aspiration syndrome