Respiratory Distress Syndrome Clinical Presentation

Updated: Jan 06, 2020
  • Author: Arun K Pramanik, MD, MBBS; Chief Editor: Ted Rosenkrantz, MD  more...
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Respiratory distress syndrome frequently occurs in the following individuals:

In contrast, the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome decreases with the following:

  • Use of antenatal steroids

  • Pregnancy-induced or chronic maternal hypertension

  • Prolonged rupture of membranes

  • Maternal narcotic addiction

Secondary surfactant deficiency may occur in infants with the following:

  • Intrapartum asphyxia

  • Pulmonary infections (eg, group B beta-hemolytic streptococcal pneumonia)

  • Pulmonary hemorrhage

  • Meconium aspiration pneumonia

  • Oxygen toxicity along with barotrauma or volutrauma to the lungs

  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernia and pulmonary hypoplasia


Physical Examination

Physical findings are consistent with the infant's maturity assessed by using the Dubowitz examination or its modification by Ballard.

Progressive signs of respiratory distress are noted soon after birth and include the following:

  • Tachypnea

  • Expiratory grunting (from partial closure of glottis)

  • Subcostal and intercostal retractions

  • Cyanosis

  • Nasal flaring

  • Extremely immature in neonates may develop apnea and/or hypothermia.