What is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome?

Meconium aspiration, also known as meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) occurs when an infant inhales amniotic fluid and meconium before, during or after birth.  Meconium is the baby’s first stool and is a thick green substance.  Inhaling meconium can block a baby’s airway, making it difficult for him or her to breathe.  Meconium can irritate a baby’s lungs and also inactivates surfactants, which is a natural substance that allows an infant’s lungs to expand.  Of the babies born with meconium-stained amniotic fluid, 11 percent of them experience some form of MAS.  If a mother notices meconium stains when her water breaks, a doctor can perform and amnioinfusion, a procedure in which saline is used to clean the amniotic fluid of meconium before a baby can inhale it.  While MAS is usually treated easily, severe forms of MAS can lead to long term problems such as chronic lung disease, hearing loss and developmental disabilities.  In rare cases, MAS can be fatal.

MAS is usually a sign of fetal distress.  For instance, a baby lacking oxygen usually gasps for air and passes meconium, which is the inhaled.  MAS may also occur during a difficult delivery or when the umbilical cord is compressed.  Mothers who smoke cigarettes, have diabetes, high blood pressure or respiratory or cardiovascular disease are at a greater risk of having a child who has MAS.  Overdue babies also have a greater risk of experiencing MAS.

There are several signs and symptom of MAS.  First, health care professionals may notice meconium stains in the amniotic fluid.  In addition, the baby’s skin may be green from the meconium.  The baby may have difficulty breathing or have an abnormal heart rate before birth.  Moreover, an infant may have a low Apgar score.

How is Meconium Aspiration Syndrome Treated?

Babies who have inhaled meconium usually receive treated immediately during delivery.  A doctor may insert a medical device known as a laryngoscope into the infant’s trachea to remove meconium.  Doctors can also use a special tube to suck meconium out of a baby’s lungs.  In some cases, babies with MAS may be sent to a special neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where they will receive oxygen therapy, antibiotics, nitric oxide and a surfactant to improve breathing.  If these treatments do not work, the infants may require extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a heart-lung machine for babies.  ECMO’s reduce fatalities among severely distressed infants from 80 percent to 10 percent.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Suffered from Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

MAS can result in chronic lung disease, hearing loss, developmental disabilities, and in some cases, death.  If your child suffered from meconium aspiration syndrome at birth, Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC may be able to help.  MAS usually occurs during fetal distress, which can be detected by doctors in a fetus’ heartbeat.  In some cases, medical professionals may fail to recognize the signs of fetal distress, or they fail to provide appropriate treatment for MAS.  Our firm will investigate the cause of your child’s condition, and if we determine his or her MAS could have been prevented, we will seek to recover compensation from those responsible.  Contact the Birth Injury Law Firm of Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC.

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