What is Meconium?

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome is a constellation of findings in a newborn that arises from a baby aspirating meconium. Meconium is, for lack of a better term, baby stool, and when a baby is stressed in utero while still inside the mom’s uterus, the baby can pass meconium. Lots of times meconium passes and it’s of no consequence whatsoever. Sometimes a baby passes meconium and it’s not from stress, the baby just decides to pass meconium, and sometimes a baby passes meconium after it’s born and there’s no ill effects of it. However, if a baby passes meconium and is left in the intrauterine environment for a prolonged period of time, the baby can aspirate the meconium, meaning the meconium can then go into the baby’s lungs which can cause a whole host of additional problem.

Why does Meconium Aspiration occur?

A baby can also aspirate meconium as soon as it’s born. A baby has what’s known as a gasp reflex when it leaves the intrauterine environment and comes out into the world, and if there is meconium in the baby’s mouth or in the baby’s pharynx at delivery and the baby takes that gasp, then the baby can have meconium go into its lungs and that can cause a whole host of problems. Meconium aspiration syndrome results from aspirated meconium that is either not suctioned or not suctioned appropriately at the time of delivery.

What happens after Meconium is Aspirated?

The meconium then seeds in the baby’s lungs and the baby will then develop two primary problems, respiratory distress syndrome and persistent pulmonary hypertension. Persistent pulmonary hypertension is a very dangerous condition, which if not managed appropriately or just in and of itself, can result in brain damage to the baby and that is why avoiding meconium aspiration syndrome and thereby avoiding persistent pulmonary hypertension is a goal of pediatrics and neonatology.

How is it treated?

To address the problem with meconium aspiration syndrome, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a book on resuscitation of the newborn that has an entire chapter dedicated to how and when you are to suction meconium from a baby’s throat or lungs in the newborn period and basically if a baby is born depressed, meaning it has low Apgar scores, it has low tone, the baby’s not doing well at birth, then the health care providers in the delivery room, and if there is meconium in the amniotic fluid or on the baby, those healthcare providers are required under the standard of care to suction below the cords. And the reason you suction below the vocal cords is you want to make sure you get all of the meconium out of the baby’s lungs so the baby does not have Meconium Aspiration Syndrome and resultant persistent pulmonary hypertension. At Wais Vogelstein Forman and Offant we have litigated numerous cases involving negligent resuscitations where a baby was born with meconium and for one reason or another, the healthcare providers did not suction below the cords and the failure to suction below the cords resulted in all of the problems associated with meconium aspiration syndrome including brain injury.

If your baby has an injury or you suspect the foregoing issue may have occurred in your case, please give us a call right away to discuss your case. The call is free and if we can help, there is no fee to you unless we win.

Listen to information on Meconium Aspiration below.

Books & Resources

For more information on meconium aspiration syndrome, the following resources are available: