Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome

Alternative Names

Hyaline membrane disease; Infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS); Respiratory distress syndrome in infants; RDS – infants

Definition of Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is most commonly a complication seen in premature infants. The condition makes it difficult to breathe.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Neonatal RDS occurs in infants whose lungs have not yet fully developed.


The symptoms usually appear within minutes of birth, although they may not be seen for several hours. Symptoms may include:

Signs and tests

A blood gas analysis shows low oxygen and excess acid in the body fluids.


High-risk and premature infants require prompt attention by a neonatal resuscitation team.

Expectations (prognosis)

The condition often worsens for 2 to 4 days after birth with slow improvement thereafter. Some infants with severe respiratory distress syndrome will die, although this is rare on the first day of life. If it occurs, it usually happens between days 2 and 7.


Daniel Rauch, MD, FAAP, Director, Pediatric Hospitalist Program, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. Previously reviewed by Alan Greene, MD, FAAP, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford UniversitySchool of Medicine, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital; Chief MedicalOfficer, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 6/1/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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