If your infant has been diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome, you may wish to go over the following five questions with your pediatrician:
1. Why does the diagnostic report for my baby mention hyaline membrane disease as well as ARDS? Is my baby suffering multiple conditions?
Hyaline membrane disease is the old name for the condition that is currently known as the respiratory distress syndrome in infants (RDS). If your doctor diagnoses your baby’s disease as either:
• Infant respiratory distress syndrome
he or she essentially means the baby is ill with hyaline membrane disease. This disease generally affects premature babies born earlier than the 28-32 weeks of gestation.
2. What exactly happens in this condition?
In acute respiratory distress syndrome, the alveoli (or small air sacs at the end of bronchioles in the lungs) are lined with dead cells and proteins thus making gas exchange in the lungs difficult. The hyaline membrane begins to take on a glassy appearance. The cause of the hyaline membrane disease (HMD) is the deficiency of a molecule called surfactant, which triggers the process of dead cell deposition on alveoli. In some cases the structural flaw of the lungs also aggravates the condition.
What happens is that the surfactant, which is a mix of lipoproteins and phospholipids, is secreted to the lung tissues to reduce the surface tension in the air passages and help the alveoli open for gas exchange. If there is not enough of this surfactant, then the alveoli are forced to close/collapse with each exhalation or breathing out. As this happens affected and destroyed cells (the hyaline cells) gather in the airways and cause more obstruction. It must be noted that the weak or ill-formed ribs of the preterm baby aggravate the situation causing deep retractions, insufficient inhalation and sometimes eventual collapse of the lungs where a ventilator is required to do the breathing for the baby.
3. Besides the labored breathing and chest retractions, what other symptoms can I expect to see for my baby?