Sat, April 7, 2012

Rapid Breathing

Rapid breathing, or tachypnea, is one of the most common symptoms in newborns and children with serious congenital heart defects.


Rapid breathing is one of the more common symptoms in newborns and children with congenital heart defects. The medical term for rapid breathing is tachypnea. When associated with heart disease, it is usually caused by either too much blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary overcirculation), or back up of blood into the lungs because of either poor pumping ability of the heart or some type of obstruction in the heart or blood vessels.


Rapid breathing is seen most commonly in babies and infants who are symptomatic from a heart condition. The most common congenital heart defects causing rapid breathing include a ventricular septal defect (VSD), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), aortic valve stenosis, and coarctation of the aorta. It can also be seen in certain cyanotic congenital heart defects such as tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great arteries, and tricuspid atresia.

Rapid breathing or tachypnea can cause a number of problems. In addition to making the child or baby uncomfortable, it often makes it more difficult to feed. Rapid breathing can increase the risk of aspiration due to impaired coordination. Finally, it can increase the baby's metabolic rate and cause slower than normal weight gain.


Rapid breathing is often treated with medication, including diuretics to potentially remove fluid from the lungs. Persistent rapid breathing and associated slow weight gain may be an indication for surgery.