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What is transient tachypnea of the newborn?

Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) is a term for a mild respiratory problem of babies that begins after birth and lasts about three days. Other terms for TTN are "wet lungs" or type II respiratory distress syndrome.

  • "transient" means temporary
  • "tachypnea" means fast breathing rate

Who is affected by transient tachypnea?

About 1 to 2 percent of all newborns develop TTN. Although premature babies can have TTN, most babies with this problem are full-term. The condition may be more likely to develop in babies delivered by cesarean section because the fluid in the lungs doesn't get squeezed out as in a vaginal birth.

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of transient tachypnea of the newborn?

The following are the most common symptoms of transient tachypnea of the newborn. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • rapid breathing rate (more than 60 breaths/minute)
  • grunting sounds with breathing
  • flaring of the nostrils
  • retractions (pulling in at the ribs with breathing)

What causes TTN?

It is thought that slow absorption of the fluid in the fetal lungs causes TTN. This fluid makes taking in oxygen harder and your baby breathes faster to compensate.

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is transient tachypnea of the newborn diagnosed?

Chest x-rays are often used to help diagnose TTN. On x-rays, the lungs will show a streaked appearance and appear over-inflated. However, it may be difficult to tell whether the problem is TTN or another kind of respiratory problem such as hyaline membrane disease.

Often, TTN is diagnosed when symptoms suddenly resolve by the third day of life.

How do we treat TTN?

Specific treatment for transient tachypnea of your newborn may include:

  • supplemental oxygen given by mask on your baby's face or by placing your baby under an oxygen hood
  • blood tests (to measure blood oxygen levels)
  • 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

Tube feedings may also be necessary if your baby's breathing rate is too high, because of the risk of aspiration of the food.

Once TTN goes away, your baby usually recovers quickly and has no increased risk for additional respiratory problems.

How we care for TTN

As one of the largest pediatric pulmonary services in the country, our Division of Pulmonary Medicine cares for more than 8,000 patients each year. Our multi-disciplinary team of pediatric pulmonologists, pulmonary nurse specialists, physical therapists, and social workers diagnose and provide care to children with numerous pulmonary disorders.

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn | Programs & Services