What’s Your Diagnosis? a 9-month-old infant gasping for air
September 30, 2019

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in: What's Your Diagnosis , trackback

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Case Presentation: an 9-month-old infant gasping for air

As your shift is winding down at 4 AM, a mother brings in her 9-month-old infant, whom she describes as “gasping for air.” The baby has had a runny nose and cough for a few days as well as a low-grade fever, but now he is breathing rapidly and wheezing, with lower intercostal retractions.

The mother states that the infant has had wheezing in the past, and she asks if he might have asthma since “it runs in the family.” She also indicates that in the last 12 hours, he has not taken his usual amount of fluids.

His oxygen saturation level is 87% on room air.

You begin to think… should I treat this as reactive airway disease, asthma, or bronchiolitis? When should I give the patient albuterol, nebulized epinephrine, or oxygen? Does the infant need steroids? You also wonder whether this patient is going to tire and require assisted ventilation or whether there are any other alternatives to intubation.

Case Conclusion

You quickly determined that your patient had severe bronchiolitis, and you knew that aggressive management was required. You placed the patient on pulse oximetry because the infant had wheezed previously, and started a trial of a nebulized bronchodilator with oxygen while closely monitoring his clinical response to treatment. Your patient’s respiratory rate was still in the 70s, with minimal decreases in the work of breathing. His pulse oximetry level was 87% on room air, so you administered supplemental oxygen via HFNC. The patient started to cry without tears, and you noticed his dry mucous membranes, so you administered IV fluids. His respiratory rate was 55 breaths/min with no retractions, and he was able to take his bottle for only a brief period even after the nurse suctioned his nasal secretions. His SpO2 level remained at 90% on room air. You decided to admit the patient because his tachypnea was leading to compromised oral intake and because of his persistent hypoxia, and you kept him on the HFNC in the meantime.

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Comments »

1. Kene - October 4, 2019

The infant clinically has bronchiolitis. He will require supplemental oxygen. In view of increase work of breathing, high flow nasal cannula therapy will be useful if commenced early.
It is difficult to predict accurately which infant would require further respiratory support like CPAP.
However, comorbidities can negatively affect prognosis.
There is no evidence to support the use of bronchodilators, epinephrine or steroids.

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