Respiratory distress syndrome treatment relies on helping the patient breathe through artificial means until he or she is well enough to breathe independently. This normally requires hospitalization in the intensive care department of a hospital. In milder cases, supportive oxygen therapy may be the only treatment necessary. In more severe situations, a mechanical device known as a ventilator may have to temporarily do the breathing for the patient. Intravenous fluids and medications may sometimes become a part of the respiratory distress syndrome treatment as well.
Oxygen therapy is perhaps the most commonly used respiratory distress syndrome treatment available. There are several methods of delivery available for those who need to receive a little extra oxygen in order to breathe efficiently. A nasal cannula is a device that is placed in the nostrils and used to transport oxygen to the body. A face mask may be placed over the nose and mouth for oxygen delivery. In some cases, a surgical hole known as a tracheostomy may be needed in order to successfully introduce extra oxygen into the body.
A ventilator is often needed as a form of respiratory distress syndrome treatment. This is a type of medical device that essentially breathes for the patient during bouts with extreme respiratory distress. While a ventilator actually helps the patient to breathe, failure of the equipment can result in death. When the lungs are strong enough to breathe without the help of a ventilator, oxygen therapy may be used as a form of temporary supportive care while the patient adjusts to breathing independently.
Prescription medications and extra fluids are often needed during respiratory distress syndrome treatment. Both the fluids and the medications are usually delivered through a small catheter known as an IV, which is typically inserted into a vein. Intravenous fluids may be given in place of solid foods if the patient is too sick to eat. These fluids also help to prevent potential complications such as dehydration.
Surfactant is a type of liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps to keep them open, allowing for easy breathing. Infants born with breathing difficulty may need to undergo surfactant therapy until the lungs have developed enough for independent breathing. The surfactant is normally delivered to the baby through a breathing tube that has been inserted directly into the lungs. A ventilator may also need to be used for infants who require surfactant therapy.