Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (Hyaline Membrane Disease) | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is HMD diagnosed?

HMD is usually diagnosed by a combination of assessments, including:

  • appearance, color, and breathing efforts (these signs indicate your baby's need for oxygen)
  • x-rays of lungs: x-rays are electromagnetic energy used to produce images of bones and internal organs onto film. In HMD, they often show a unique “ground glass” appearance called a reticulogranular pattern.
  • blood gases (tests for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in arterial blood): often show lowered amounts of oxygen and increased carbon dioxide.
  • echocardiography (EKG): may be used to rule out heart problems that could cause symptoms similar to HMD. An electrocardiogram is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows arrhythmias (abnormal rhythms), and detects damage to the heart muscle.

What treatments are available for HMD?

Treatment for HMD may include:

  • placing an endotracheal tube (breathing tube, also called an ET) into your baby's windpipe
  • mechanical breathing machine (to do the work of breathing for your baby)
  • supplemental oxygen (extra amounts of oxygen)
  • continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): a mechanical breathing machine that pushes a continuous flow of air or oxygen to the airways to help keep tiny air passages in the lungs open
  • surfactant replacement with artificial surfactant: this treatment has been shown to reduce the severity of HMD, and is most effective if started in the first six hours of birth. It may be given as preventive treatment for babies at very high risk for HMD, or used as a “rescue” method. The drug comes as a powder that is mixed with sterile water and given through the ET tube. This treatment is usually administered in several doses.
  • medications (to help sedate and ease your baby's pain during treatment)