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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Meconium Aspiration – Diagnosis

There are a number of signs that doctors look to to diagnose meconium aspiration.

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Even pre-delivery, there are certain signs that make it more likely that the fetus may have aspirated meconium in the uterus. For example, if the baby is over 42 weeks, they are at higher risk of meconium release and aspiration. Also, certain health issues or behaviors on the part of the mother indicate a higher risk of meconium aspiration. For instance, any maternal hypertension and related conditions, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine), smoking and substance abuse may alert the physician to be on the lookout for meconium release and aspiration. Finally, consistent leakage of amniotic fluid while the mother is pregnant may lead to cord compression, which, in turn, can cause fetal distress and increase the risks.

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During delivery, fetal distress, any complications (such as delivery with the umbilical cord around the fetus’s neck), and, obviously, finding thick meconium in the amniotic fluid, are signs of this syndrome. After delivery, as detailed on the “Symptoms” page, difficulties breathing, signs in the baby’s appearance, and a low APGAR score are all signs that a baby has aspirated meconium.

With these signs, doctors may run a few more tests and examinations before diagnosing the baby. Your baby will be physically examined, as green or yellowish skin, stained nails, scaly/dry skin, stained vocal chords (discovered via a laryngoscopy) and a barrel-shaped chest are also indications. Difficulties breathing or signs of respiratory distress such as cyanosis are additional indications that should trigger an immediate response and further testing. Chest x-rays should be ordered, and they are likely to continue to request chest x-rays every few hours. If the infant’s lungs show obstructions, high volumes (because the air can get in but not exit), patches or streaking lines, excess fluid or air in the chest cavity (pleural effusion or pneumothorax), it is likely the doctor will diagnose the baby with meconium aspiration syndrome. Blood work should also be completed to look for any signs of infection. Also, a blood gas analysis will likely be initiated, and signs of higher blood acidity, low blood oxygenation, and increased carbon dioxide saturation can also prompt a diagnosis.

Before making a final diagnosis, the doctor will likely order some tests to rule out other neonatal disorders. For example, the doctors may order tests to make sure that any breathing diseases are not attributable to congenital heart disease. Further, even if the doctor is certain about the diagnosis, additional tests may be performed to assess the severity and specific complications of the syndrome in a particular infant. The physician may want to check the severity of any lung damage, if the infant is suffering from pulmonary hypertension, or if there is any neurological damage associated with the diagnosis.