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General Principles


  • Approximately 4 million infants are born in the United States each year, with up to 10% requiring some resuscitation.
  • Transition from fetal to neonatal physiology entails:
    • Expansion of the lungs with spontaneous breathing
    • Clearance of fetal lung fluid
    • Rise in PaO2 from ∼25 mm Hg (fetus) to >50 mm Hg (neonate), facilitating a decrease in pulmonary vascular resistance and closure of the ductus arteriosus
    • Increased left atrial venous return, facilitating closure of the patent foramen ovale
  • Alterations in this transition will cause varying degrees of hypoxia in the infant.
    • Initial response to hypoxia is apnea → This primary apnea can be reversed with tactile stimulation.
    • If hypoxia persists, the infant will begin irregular gasping respirations, which is followed by secondary apnea → This apnea cannot be reversed with tactile stimulation, and ventilatory assistance must be provided.
  • Please see Chapter 40 for definitions regarding asphyxiated infants, as there are definitive guidelines set jointly by the AAP and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on when an infant can be termed “asphyxiated.”
  • Please refer to the NRP guidelines for a full discussion on resuscitation in the delivery room.


Anticipation of High-Risk Delivery


  • Situations in which resuscitation may be expected:
    • Preterm delivery
    • Narcotics in labor
    • Maternal infection
    • Postterm delivery
    • Fetal malformation
    • Uterine tetany
    • Thick meconium
    • Hydrops fetalis
    • Maternal diabetes
    • Multiple gestation
    • Fetal arrhythmia
    • Evidence of fetal distress
    • Acute fetal/placental hemorrhage
    • Poly/oligohydramnios
    • Preeclampsia
    • Intrauterine growth restriction
    • Emergent cesarean delivery
  • The key to successful resuscitation is clear communication between the neonatal team and the obstetric team.
  • If there is a known high-risk delivery and time permits, resuscitation plans should be discussed with the parents; this also serves to ascertain their wishes, which is especially important for infants born at the limits of viability or infants with life-threatening anomalies.
  • Equipment should be prepared in advance of known high-risk deliveries.
    • Radiant warmer: Should be turned on and pre-warmed to prevent rapid heat loss in VLBW or EBLW infants
    • Flow inflating bag and appropriately sized facemasks for the anticipated delivery: Be sure PEEP is set correctly and the bag is connected to an oxygen source. A flow meter, adequate tubing length, and oxygen blender may be necessary, as well as a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation. This is particularly important in the resuscitation of ELBW/VLBW infants and infants with known congenital cardiac disease (both scenarios in which excessive oxygen administration may need to be avoided).
    • Materials for endotracheal intubation (laryngoscope with Miller 00, 0, and 1 blades; appropriate sizes of endotracheal tubes [with 2.5-, 3.0-, and 3.5-mm internal diameters], stethoscope, suction catheters with suction source, CO2 detector to confirm endotracheal intubation).
    • Bulb suction.
    • Transport incubator with transport monitors.

eFigure 30-1
Graphic Jump Location

Algorithm for resuscitation of the newborn. (Reprinted with permission from DeCherney AH, Nathan L: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Obstetrics & Gynecology, 10th ...

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