In the time after birth, some infants may need help breathing through the use of machines. These machines must be set properly by a trained professional. If they are not, they will remove too much CO2 from the baby’s blood. This puts the baby at risk for brain damage, as CO2 levels that are too low prevent proper blood flow within the brain. This can cause tissue loss in the brain’s periventricular area, known as PVL. Overventilation can also cause lung tissue scarring or lung collapse.
Neonatal Respiration Injuries
Many newborns (especially preterm infants) require assisted ventilation at birth for conditions like apnea or respiratory failure. Despite its life-saving benefits, however, mechanical ventilation can cause serious damage if not managed properly. Brain damage, lung damage, and other complications may occur if the baby is over-oxygenated or over-ventilated. Throughout this page, our Detroit, Michigan birth injury attorneys will discuss everything you need to know about birth injury as it relates to overventilation and hypocarbia.
Overventilation occurs when a baby is given breaths that are so large and/or fast, it causes the baby to get rid of too much carbon dioxide (called hypocarbia). When a baby has abnormally low levels of carbon dioxide, it may cause permanent damage to the brain due to a lack of perfusion (cerebral blood flow) to critical areas of the brain. Hypocarbia and subsequent lack of perfusion has been associated with periventricular leukomalacia (involves the death of small areas of brain tissue around fluid-filled areas called ventricles; the damage forms “holes” in the brain), cerebral palsy, and hearing impairments.
Likewise, too much pressure from mechanical ventilation can cause lung problems such as a pnuemothorax or worsen bronchopulmonary dysplasia (an abnormal development of lung tissue in premature babies characterized by inflammation and scarring).