Blue baby syndrome
|Blue baby syndrome|
|Other names||Blue baby, cyanotic infant, cyanotic baby, cyanotic newborn|
|A cyanotic newborn, or "blue baby".|
Note the blue coloration of the fingertips.
|Specialty||Pediatrics, cardiac surgery|
Blue baby syndrome can refer to a number of conditions that result in blueness of the skin in babies.
- Cyanotic heart disease occurring as a congenital heart defect
- Methemoglobinemia potentially caused by nitrates in drinking water
A number of cardiovascular defects may lead to blue baby syndrome. The most common cyanotic heart defects include tetralogy of Fallot, persistent (or patent) truncus arteriosus, tricuspid atresia, transposition of the great vessels, and anomalous pulmonary venous connection.
Blue baby syndrome can also be caused by nitrates in drinking water leading to methemoglobinemia. Nitrates from polluted drinking water form compounds in the body that change haemoglobin to methemoglobin, decreasing the ability of blood to carry oxygen. In infants, the condition can be fatal. The sources of nitrate can include fertilizers used in agricultural lands, waste dumps or pit latrines. For example, cases of blue baby syndrome have been reported in villages in Romania and Bulgaria, and were thought to be caused by groundwater polluted by nitrate leaching from pit latrines. Nitrate levels are subject to monitoring to comply with drinking water quality standards in the United States and other countries. The link between blue baby syndrome and nitrates in drinking water is widely accepted, but some studies indicate that other contaminants, or dietary nitrate sources, may also play a role in the syndrome.
Other insults in neonates, such as respiratory distress syndrome, can also produce a "blue baby syndrome". Like methemoglobinemia, these are not structural lesions and are not regarded by most doctors as true "cyanotic lesions."
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