Last updated on May 25th, 2018 at 11:58 pm
Newborn with a pneumothorax
Having a baby is a crazy, magical, and exciting time for parents, but having a newborn with a pneumothorax is anything but! My son was born at 37 weeks 2 days via planned c-section due to my gestational hypertension that was worsening and suspected IUGR (full story here). He really “shouldn’t” have needed to be in there. At 37 weeks, babies are considered full-term, and yet he landed himself a 12 day stay in the NICU because of a pneumothorax.
What is a pneumothorax?
According to Medline Plus, “a pneumothorax is the collection of air or gas in the space inside the chest around the lungs, which leads to a lung collapse” and is usually caused by a baby being born too early. The article then goes on to say that if a baby is put on a breathing machine it can put too much pressure on a baby’s lungs which could cause a pneumothorax.
My son was born at 37 weeks and despite what they say, his lungs were not yet well-developed. He was having labored breathing, high respirations and low oxygen levels. They initially started him on a CPAP to help his lungs fully expand, so he would take deep breaths and not so many short breaths. All the while, they had done x-rays to rule out pneumonia and other possible causes for his breathing. In all honesty, we aren’t quite sure if it was the CPAP that caused his pneumothorax because the first few x-rays he had showed no pneumothorax.
A diagnosis of a pneumothorax
He stayed on the CPAP for a couple of days but was not improving as they had hoped. His EKG came back normal, and his x-ray didn’t show any signs of pneumonia. They did another x-ray and finally discovered a pneumothorax.
We were just happy to know what was causing his breathing problems and figure out what the gameplan would be to treat the pneumothorax so we could bring our new baby home.
How to treat a pneumothorax in a baby?
His doctor decided to do a procedure called needle aspiration, where they stick a needle in through his armpit all the way into the space between his lung and chest wall. They then attempted to use the needle to get rid of the air trapped in this space.
The procedure went well without any problems, and the next day they did a follow-up x-ray. Unfortunately, it hadn’t helped much.
His right lung was also starting to collapse because it was working so much harder to compensate for his weakened left lung. They switched him from CPAP to a high flow ventilator. (This was by far the scariest machine, and scary seeing little Luke’s whole body shake from the amount of oxygen it was pushing into him).
My doctor called my hospital room, and told me they were going to have to give him a chest tube. This was a more extensive procedure, and it would mean he would have a tube in his chest and hooked up to a machine to pull the air out. Last minute, his doctor decided to once more try the needle aspiration. ( I learned later, this was extremely uncommon. If it doesn’t work the first time, they go to chest tube.) God had answered our prayers, and it had worked!
The next step was that he was put on a low flow ventilator (which looked a 100 times better than the high flow ventilator).
After he started breathing better and needing less oxygen, they weaned him off of the ventilator. He still had a bunch of IVs and a feeding tube down his nose, but things were finally starting to look much better. They slowly started to feed him with a bottle, and once he was taking a certain mL, they tookout his feeding tube (I don’t remember the number).
After he was starting eat well on his own, they moved him to a floor called special care.At this point he still had to complete his antibiotics, gain weight, and be off of IV fluids before they would let him go home. After three days in special care, we were finally able to take Luke home!
After having a baby in the NICU with a pneumothorax, it is by far the most rewarding thing to bring your baby home. For me, I felt like I had won the lottery!
Thank you for reading my story of my newborn with a pneumothorax. My son went through a lot more than any baby should ever have to, but I am also grateful because he had a positive outcome. He was definitely one of the luckier babies in the NICU at the time because he was so much farther along. If you are a parent with a baby in the NICU or are worried that when you deliver your baby will be in the NICU please read my Parents guide to Surviving the NICU. As always, subscribe for more sweet advice from one mom to another!