What Is Blue Baby Syndrome?

Author
By becky
Jul 31, 2020
Medical Expert Medical Expert

Blue baby syndrome is a name given to a similar set of symptoms that can be caused by two different conditions. In both cases, the most notable sign is a blue tinge to the baby’s skin. This may be diffuse across the surface of the body, or it may be visible only in a few localized areas. If observed, however, the baby should receive immediate medical attention because the blueness of the skin indicates that the baby’s tissues are not receiving enough oxygen.

Blue baby syndrome is fortunately very rare. It can be caused by either a heart defect that is present from birth or an acquired blood disorder. It is crucial to correctly determine the cause of the symptoms so that the required treatment can take place in a timely manner.

1. Causes

When blue baby syndrome occurs, it is usually caused by a congenital heart defect. The most common defect that leads to blue baby syndrome is tetralogy of Fallot. This is a combination of four different defects in the heart occurring simultaneously and affecting the aorta, right ventricle, outflow tract to the lungs, and ventricular septum, which is the structure that separates the two larger chambers of the heart. The effects of these combined abnormalities prevent the heart from pumping blood to the lungs. This cuts off the supply of oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues.

The other cause of blue baby syndrome is a blood disorder called methemoglobinemia. Hemoglobin is the substance in the blood that picks up oxygen and carries it to the other tissues in the body. Methemoglobin is a similar substance that does not bond well with oxygen. A small amount of methemoglobin is present in the body naturally. However, exposure to certain chemicals called nitrites can cause a reaction that converts hemoglobin into methemoglobin. This can result in blue baby syndrome if there is more methemoglobin produced than the body can get rid of on its own. Adults who are genetically predisposed to it may develop methemoglobinemia. However, most patients are babies less than one year old.

Blue Baby Syndrome

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