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How Is Respiratory Distress Syndrome Diagnosed?

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is common in premature infants. Thus, doctors usually recognize and begin treating the disorder as soon as babies are born.

Doctors also do several tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing an infant's breathing problems. The tests also can confirm that the doctors have diagnosed the condition correctly.

The tests include:

  • Chest x ray. A chest x ray creates a of the structures inside the chest, such as the heart and lungs. This test can show whether your infant has signs of RDS. A chest x ray also can detect problems, such as a collapsed lung, that may require urgent treatment.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests are used to see whether an infant has enough oxygen in his or her blood. Blood tests also can help find out whether an infection is causing the infant's breathing problems.
  • Echocardiography (echo). This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. Echo is used to rule out heart defects as the cause of an infant's breathing problems.
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Last Updated: January 24, 2012