Recent studies have linked a number of popular antidepressants to a rare respiratory birth defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Signs and symptoms of PPHN include rapid breathing (tachypnea), respiratory distress, heart murmurs, and low oxygen levels. Antidepressant medications associated with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn include Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, Effexor, Symbyax, and Wellbutrin.

PPHN Update 1/13/12: According to the results of a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), women who use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to babies with PPHN. In a comprehensive analysis of more than 1.6 million live births, SSRI antidepressant exposure during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with a doubling of the risk of PPHN. Click here to learn more.

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with PPHN after being exposed to an antidepressant drug in the womb, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

Which Antidepressants Have Been Linked to PPHN?

The following selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants have been linked to PPHN in babies born to mothers who took the drugs during pregnancy (especially during the first trimester, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant):

  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn Overview

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is a rare congenital birth defect that results in the progressive narrowing of the blood vessels of the lungs. The lungs contain millions of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which are lined with endothelial cells that prevent blood from leaking out of the vessels. On the outside of the blood vessels are muscle cells that expand and contract as blood moves through the heart into the lungs.

PPHN occurs when these blood vessels stop functioning the way they were designed to. This happens when the cells within the blood vessels weaken and allow blood to leak. This causes the exterior muscle cells to constrict, which eventually drives up the pulmonary arterial pressure and prevents blood from the heart to be oxygenated in the lungs.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is often the result of a birth defect known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Normally, when a baby is developing in the womb, the ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that serves as a shunting mechanism which allows blood to bypass the fluid-filled lungs, which promotes heart strength and prevents stress on both the heart and lungs. Once the baby is born and begins breathing on its own, the ductus arteriosus closes and seals itself to allow blood to enter the lungs and receive oxygen. In babies born with PDA, however, the ductus arteriosus fails to close after birth, which causes the blood in the lungs to become elevated, eventually leading to PPHN. If left untreated, hypoxia can occur, which is a condition where the body does not receive enough oxygen, placing all organs and body systems at risk for failure.

PPHN Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of antidepressant-induced persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn may include (but are not limited to):

  • rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • rapid heart rate
  • respiratory distress
  • flaring nostrils
  • grunting
  • bluish tint to the lips and skin (cyanosis)
  • heart murmur
  • low oxygen levels – a baby with PPHN may continue to have low oxygen levels in their blood, even while receiving 100 percent oxygen.

On July 19, 2006, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release warning the public about the link between SSRIs and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. The warning came in response to a study published earlier that year in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that found PPHN was six times more common in babies born to mothers who took an SSRI after the 20th week of pregnancy compared to women from the general population who took no such antidepressants.

Treatment

The main goal of treatment for antidepressant-induced PPHN involves increasing oxygen levels to the infant’s organs to avoid long-term complications. Treatment may include a wide range of mechanical ventilation and respiratory therapy options, including:

  • Oxygen – Oxygen may be given to the infant through a mask or plastic hood.
  • Assisted Ventilation – A tube is inserted into the child’s esophagus and a ventilator takes over the baby’s breathing.
  • Nitric Oxide (N2O) – N2O has been shown to be effective in treating PPHN because it relaxes contracted blood vessels and improves blood flow to the lungs.
  • High Frequency Oscillatory Ventilation – May improve oxygen levels if other treatment options fail.
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) – Similar to a heart-lung bypass machine, ECMO devices deliver oxygen to the brain and body as a temporary support while the PPHN resolves.

Prognosis (Outlook)

The long-term outlook for babies born with PPHN largely depends on the underlying condition that is causing it, and whether treatment was instituted. Statistics show a survival rate of about three years for patients who do not undergo any therapy. Other factors that may affect the prognosis include severe symptoms, age of onset greater than 45 years, right-sided heart failure, and failure to respond to treatment. For PPHN patients who are treated and respond well, the long-term outlook is far better. Studies are currently underway to determine optimal treatment regimens.

Is there a time limit in filing a persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their PPHN lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential antidepressant-induced PPHN lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


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