Posts Tagged ‘blood vessels’

Single umbilical artery

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

insideAbout 1 percent of singleton and about 5 percent of multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets or more) have an umbilical cord that contains only two blood vessels, instead of the normal three. The cause of this abnormality, called single umbilical artery, is unknown.

The umbilical cord is the life-line that attaches the mother and developing baby. Connecting through the placenta, a normal umbilical cord is made up of three blood vessels. One large vein carries oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the baby and the two smaller arteries carry blood and waste products back to the placenta. The umbilical cord normally grows to about two feet in length, allowing the baby enough cord to safely move around without causing damage to the cord or the placenta.

In a single umbilical artery, one artery is missing. Studies suggest that babies with single umbilical artery have an increased risk for birth defects, including heart, central nervous system and urinary-tract defects and chromosomal abnormalities. A woman whose baby is diagnosed with single umbilical artery during a routine ultrasound may be offered certain prenatal tests to diagnose or rule out birth defects. These tests may include a detailed ultrasoundamniocentesis (to check for chromosomal abnormalities) and in some cases, echocardiography (a special type of ultrasound to evaluate the fetal heart). The provider also may recommend that the baby have an ultrasound after birth.

The diagnosis of a single umbilical artery does not necessarily mean that the baby will have a birth defect. It does mean, however, that some tests are warranted and that closer attention needs to be paid for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)

Monday, September 20th, 2010

baby-eyesWhen a premature baby is born very early, his eyes are not fully developed.  As with other organs, it takes weeks for the eyes to continue to completely mature.

During normal eye development, a network of little blood vessels forms at the center of the retina in the back of the eye. Over time, the blood vessels spread and cover the surface of the retina, moving toward the front of the eye, carrying much needed oxygen.  This process is complete around the time of full term birth.

ROP is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It occurs only in babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. The flow of oxygen throughout the eye can be slowed or accelerated due to the air the baby is receiving.  Respiratory distress and apnea episodes can reduce the flow while extra oxygen a baby may be receiving can increase the flow.  This change in oxygen flow can cause new, abnormal vessels to grow. ROP can lead to bleeding and scarring that can damage the eye’s retina (the lining at the rear of the eye that relays messages to the brain). This can result in vision loss. An ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will examine the baby’s eyes for signs of ROP.

Most NICUs have a screening program for babies born before a certain gestational age.  The doctor will examine the baby’s eyes and if he sees any sign of ROP, he will classify it as a stage 1-5 (mild-severe).  While ROP can progress from a mild stage to a more severe stage, it may stop at any time and disappear entirely.  It is very important that every baby with ROP have frequent follow-up exams, even if this extends beyond hospital discharge, until the ROP disappears.

Terrifying as a diagnosis of ROP may be, the good news is that most mild cases heal without treatment, with little or no vision loss. The abnormal blood vessels shrink and disappear.  In more severe cases, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina.

Don’t forget that Nov. 17th is Prematurity Awareness Day.  Got a blog? Help us raise awareness by joining Bloggers UNITE to Fight for Preemies.

Baby feet

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

19393021_thbBelieve it or not, the human foot is one of the most complicated parts of the body. It has 26 bones, including a complex system of ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. The feet of young children are soft, pliable and grow quite rapidly during the first year. For these reasons, podiatrists consider this period to be the most critical stage of the foot’s development.

Here are some suggestions from the American Podiatric Medical Association to help promote normal development:

Look carefully at your baby’s feet. If you notice something that does not look normal to you, contact the baby’s pediatrician or a podiatrist. Many deformities will not correct themselves if left untreated.

Keep your baby’s feet unrestricted. No shoes or booties are necessary for infants. These can restrict movement and can inhibit toes and feet from normal development.

Provide an opportunity for exercising the feet. Lying uncovered enables the baby to kick and perform other related motions which prepare the feet for weight bearing.

Change the baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot can put excessive strain on the feet and legs. Be sure to limit how much time your baby spends standing in an activity center to no more than 15 minutes at a time.

It is not recommended to force a child to walk. A child will walk when physically and mentally ready. When a baby first begins to walk, shoes are not necessary indoors. As a toddler, walking barefoot allows the youngster’s foot to grow normally and to develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of toes. When walking outside or on rough surfaces, babies’ feet should be protected in lightweight, flexible footwear made of natural materials.