PPHN Diagnosis

How is a newborn diagnosed with PPHN?

Common PPHN symptoms are consistent with other medical problems and disorders that may occur shortly after birth. Symptoms such as rapid breathing (tachypnea), rapid heart rate (tachycardia), breathlessness (respiratory distress), blue skin (cyanosis), and sluggish behavior (lethargy) all may be associated with other newborn conditions. Additional diagnostic testing is needed to rule out other possible diagnoses and make an accurate diagnosis of PPHN.

When a baby has signs and symptoms of PPHN, there are several imaging and lab tests that doctors may order to help determine if the infant has Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn.

Radiology and Imaging Tests to Diagnose PPHN

Radiology and Imaging tests are performed to get a better look at the heart, lungs, and circulation, and to check for (and rule out) other possible causes of the newborn’s sings and symptoms such as congenital heart defects.

  • Chest X-Rays can show whether a newborn has an enlarged heart or underlying pulmonary (lung) disease.
  • Ultrasound of the Head may be taken to determine if an infant has bleeding in the brain, called an intra-cerebral hemorrhage or ICH.
  • Electrocardiography often is viewed as definitive test to diagnose Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn. Also called a cardiac ECHO, an echocardiogram shows the shows circulating blood flow within a baby’s heart and simultaneously can detect the presence of elevated pressures in the pulmonary artery (pulmonary hypertension) and exclude congenital heart disease (heart defects) as a possible diagnosis.

Laboratory and Blood Tests used in the Diagnosis of PPHN

Blood tests and other laboratory testing are performed to see how much oxygen is in the blood and how well it is being delivered to vital organs and tissues throughout a newborn’s body.

Arterial blood gas test (ABG) results reveal how much oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid buildup are in a baby’s arterial blood. Normally, arteries contain high oxygen levels. Newborns with PPHN have low levels of oxygen in their bloodstream. Arterial blood gas tests measure the oxygen level (partial pressure of oxygen) in the blood. ABG testing is the most accurate way to check how well oxygen is being delivered to the body.

Complete Blood Count (CBC) also is known as full blood count (FBC), full blood exam (FBE) or blood panel. CBC testing measures the number of three types of blood cells:

  • red blood cells (erythrocytes) carry oxygen throughout the body
  • white blood cells (leukocytes) fight infection
  • platelets (thrombocytes) are involved in clotting

CBC test results help diagnose newborn anemia, infection and other possible causes of PPHN signs and symptoms. A CBC panel can be a very important test in making a diagnosis of PPHN.

Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive way to monitor the oxygenation of the newborn’s hemoglobin, the part of the blood that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. “Oxygenation” means the percentage of blood hemoglobin bound with oxygen (oxygen-bound blood hemoglobin). A sensor, called a pulse oximeter, is placed across the baby’s foot and a light containing both red and infrared wavelengths is passed from one side to the other. The amounts of passing light changes with the pulse of arterial blood. The difference in color between bright red oxygen-bound blood hemoglobin and dark red (or blue, in severe cases) oxygen-unbound blood hemoglobin is used to measure oxygenation.

Serum electrolyte testing checks the balance of minerals in the blood that help keep the newborn’s fluid levels in balance and are needed to help the baby’s muscles, heart, and other organs work properly.

If your baby has been diagnosed with Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn, you probably have many questions. We are here to help you get the answers you need. Please contact us today and let us show you how we can help your family. Submit the contact form on the right or call us at 800-845-6913.