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What Is Pulmonary Hypoplasia?

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  • Written By: Kelly Stoll
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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Pulmonary hypoplasia (P-Hyp) is a developmental abnormality that affects fetuses and infants, resulting in the malformation of the lungs and lung alveoli, the small air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. A diagnosis of this condition might be made prior to or shortly after an infant’s birth. In cases where pulmonary hypoplasia develops and not enough alveoli form, an infant’s lungs will not be able to function at the same level as an infant who doesn't have this condition. Pulmonary hypoplasia might also develop in conjunction with other congenital medical conditions. Although it has been indicated that this health abnormality can result in premature newborn or infant death, depending upon the severity of the malformation and the treatment options available, it might also be a non-life-threatening condition.

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Contributing factors that can indicate the presence of pulmonary hypoplasia might include shortened airways, reduced lung volume and reduced lung weight. There are several types of non-invasive tests that can be performed to assist in diagnosing this condition. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests might be used to appraise fetal volume prior to birth, and a computed tomography (CT) scan might be utilized after the infant is born. Additionally, by calculating the fetal lung volume, a medical professional might be able to access the possibility of pulmonary hypoplasia being present. To predict the development of this condition in cases where the fetus is extremely small, a combination of ultrasonography and an MRI can be used to determine the approximate fetal weight.

There are other health conditions that could be present in infants who have pulmonary hypoplasia, such as cardiac malformations, diaphragmatic hernias or gastrointestinal abnormalities. Other conditions that might be present in these infants include thoracic or abdominal masses, musculoskeletal malformations and renal complications. With modern medical testing, most associated irregularities that might contribute to the development of this condition can be accurately identified.

An infant who tests positive for pulmonary hypoplasia will need to be closely monitored after diagnosis. If other health complications are present, corrective surgery might be required. Further treatment can include intubation and assisted ventilation.

Additionally, the infant's blood gases, potenz hydrogen (pH) levels, oxygen saturation and other bodily functions are likely to be observed. Survivors of pulmonary hypoplasia are at a higher risk of developing chronic lung disease and might have associated problems with cardiac function, feeding, growth and development. For this reason, careful management of any additional medical conditions and continued doctor’s supervision will most likely be needed throughout the patient's life.

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