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Home > Events & Health Information > Diseases & Conditions > Very Low Birth Weight Conditions (< 1500g) > Respiratory Distress Syndrome – RDS

Respiratory Distress Syndrome – RDS




Our intensive care team of doctors and nurses helps manage this condition.




Signs & Symptoms

The premature baby will breathe rapidly, have in-drawing of the muscles of the chest wall or neck, and make a grunting sound.  The baby will require oxygen delivered via a breathing device (ventilator or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)) to maintain normal blood oxygen levels. 


Pre-surfactant administration                                            Post-surfactant administration



What causes it

The lungs of premature newborns do not produce enough surfactant, a natural mixture of lipids and protein.



About the condition

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is one of the conditions affecting babies with very low birth weight (VLBW).


Without surfactant, the premature baby's air sacs are not well expanded, and cannot function well for gas exchange. Additionally, some premature babies are not yet strong enough to breathe effectively during the first few days of life.


Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Our doctors will make the diagnosis after examining the baby, and with the help of blood tests and chest x-rays. Babies with RDS can be treated with Surfactant and supported with breathing devices, either a ventilator (breathing machine) or a CPAP device. Following recovery from this respiratory condition, the progress of the baby depends on his or her overall general condition.


Occasionally, when the baby has severe RDS, air may leak out of the airways and prevent the lung from expanding. This can be treated immediately by placing a tube into the lung cavity to drain out the air.



Air Leak -->













Clinical Outcome

The severity of this condition is determined by several factors: the degree of prematurity and maternal conditions prior to delivery. The more premature the baby is, the more severe the expected course of the RDS. A course of antenatal corticosteroids for pregnant women will reduce the chances of their premature babies having severe RDS by about 40%.