Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn Lawsuit

January 21, 2011

Many of the most severe side effects associated with the use of  SSRI Antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram) are congenital birth defects,  including: Congenital Heart Defects, Congenital Lung Defects, Congenital Abdominal Wall Defects, Congenital Cranio-facial Defects,and other birth defects and malformations affecting various other areas of the child’s anatomy.

SSRI Antidepressant Heart Lung Birth Defects

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is one form of lung and respiratory birth defect that has been linked to the use of SSRI Antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram)  during pregnancy.  In the uterus, a baby’s circulation bypasses the lungs. When a baby is born and begins to breathe, its body normally transitions to the process of respiration.  PPHN occurs when a baby’s body doesn’t make the normal transition in circulation at birth, resulting in the circulation of un-oxygenated blood throughout the body.

What is Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)?

Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) of the newborn is a relatively rare, yet potentially very serious condition. It can cause both immediate and long-term complications and health concerns. PPHN affects approximately one in every 500-1500 births.  When a baby is in the womb, the oxygen is supplied through the umbilical cord. After birth, the baby’s system should switch to receive oxygen from the lungs. In babies born with PPHN, the heart, blood vessels, and lungs (circulatory system) do not make the adjustment. When babies with PPHN are born, the blood does not interact with the lungs, and instead circulates as it did in the womb.  Babies with PPHN do not receive the necessary oxygen from the lungs that is normally supplied.  Symptoms of PPHN typically appear within 12 hours after birth.


PPHN can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

An event or illness during pregnancy or childbirth
Meconium aspiration syndrome (the baby inhales the meconium—its first stool—prior to or shortly after birth)
Severe pneumonia
Use of certain Infection
Low blood sugar
Birth asphyxia (loss of oxygen to the fetus during delivery)
Respiratory distress syndrome
Maternal use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Late trimester use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI antidepressants) during pregnancy
Amniotic fluid leak
Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios)
Abnormal lung development as a result of congenital diaphragmatic hernia
Stress during pregnancy
Isolated condition with an unknown cause

The following factors may increase your baby’s chance of developing PPHN:

Stress to the fetus during pregnancy or delivery
Health conditions of the mother, including diabetes
Complications during birth or pregnancy


Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
Difficulty breathing or other symptoms of respiratory difficulties, including flared nostrils or grunting
Blue tint to the skin, even when the baby is receiving oxygen

Exams and Tests

Tests may include the following:

Chest x-rays to diagnose lung disease or enlarged heart
Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to show the baby’s circulating blood flow
Head ultrasound to diagnose bleeding in the brain
Laboratory tests
Arterial blood gas (ABG)
Complete blood count (CBC)
Serum electrolyte tests
Pulse oximetry (monitoring the percentage of hemoglobin saturated with oxygen)


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment for PPHN is typically administered by a neonatologist, a doctor who specializes in newborn illnesses. Treatment begins with correcting any predisposing condition such as low blood sugar, administering oxygen, preventing low blood pressure, and correcting low blood pH. Treatment options include:

To increase the amount of oxygen to the baby’s lungs, a tube may be placed directly into the trachea. A ventilator administers the oxygen into the tube, and breathes for the baby.

Inhaled nitric oxide may relax blood vessels and improve circulation.

There are a number of novel medication strategies that are currently under investigation. For example, sildenafil has been studied in small numbers of patients with overall positive results. However, studies with larger numbers are needed to confirm the drug’s effectiveness and safety. 

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) requires major surgery. It is typically only performed on the most serious cases of PPHN when the patient has not responded to other treatments. In ECMO, a machine acts as an artificial heart and lungs to the baby so that the natural organs can heal.


Because in many cases the cause of PPHN is unknown or uncontrollable, there is no completely effective method of preventing PPHN. However, proper prenatal care and good health of the mother during pregnancy can reduce the risk of some causes of PPHN.  Many factors, including the use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy, also seem to be involved.

SSRI Class Action Lawsuit vs. Individual SSRI Lawsuit

There are distinct differences between an SSRI Antidepressant (Zoloft – sertraline, Paxil – paroxetine, Prozac – fluoxetine, Lexapro – escitalopram and Celexa – citalopram) class action lawsuit and a more typical individual SSRI lawsuit. A SSRI class action lawsuit would be a form of SSRI lawsuit in which a large group of people (plaintiffs) collectively bring a lawsuit to court in the form of a “class action” against the manufacturers of the SSRI antidepressant (defendant). In a class action lawsuit involving personal injury, resulting from defective products such as antidepressant SSRI drugs like Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram), all SSRI lawsuit plaintiffs would typically be grouped together into a single SSRI class action lawsuit, regardless of the degree or severity of their birth defect injuries. In this type of SSRI class action lawsuit, plaintiffs with injuries ranging from minor heart murmurs not requiring surgery, all the way to the most severe congenital heart defects, requiring multiple surgeries or a complete heart transplant, would be grouped into one single SSRI class action lawsuit. All plaintiffs in the class would equally share any award or settlement resulting from the SSRI class action lawsuit.

In SSRI antidepressant lawsuits involving catastrophic injury or death, an individual lawsuit, in most cases, is more appropriate and in the plaintiff’s best interest. SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro and Paxil, have been linked to some of the severe congenital heart defects listed above, including: atrial septal defects (ASD – hole in the heart), ventricular septal defects (VSD – hole in the heart), tetrology of fallot (ToF), hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), transposition of the great arteries (TGA or TOGA), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR), double outlet right ventricle (DORV), and coarctation of the aorta (CoA). SSRI antidepressant cases such as these are better suited to an individual SSRI antidepressant lawsuit because of the severity and degree of injury to the plaintiff. In an individual SSRI lawsuit, each plaintiff’s case is filed, presented and considered individually, based on its own strength and degree of injury.

In many cases involving SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil and the serious congenital heart defects related to these SSRI antidepressants, surgery is required. Heart surgery will typically be required when a child is an infant or toddler and then again, potentially multiple times, as the child grows to maturity. In many cases, with surgery and medical care, children may be able to lead mostly normal and productive lives. An individual SSRI lawsuit allows each SSRI victim, their injuries and their future needs to be considered on an individual basis when determining damages, awards and settlement amounts, and not as part of a class action lawsuit.

Speak to an SSRI Lawyer about an SSRI Birth Defect Lawsuit

If you took Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram) or any another SSRI antidepressant drug during pregnancy and your child was born with a congenital heart, lung or other birth defect, we encourage you to contact an SSRI Antidepressant Lawsuit Attorney at our law firm immediately. It may be too late to recover from the devastating effects of Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa but an experienced pharmaceutical products liability lawyer at the Willis Law Firm can assist you in legal action against the makers of these dangerous antidepressant drugs. You are not alone. Join other birth defect victims and their families in speaking up and fighting for your legal rights.

Please fill out our free online legal evaluation form and we will contact you within 24 hours, or call our offices at 1-800-883-9858 for immediate help. Please keep in mind that certain states have statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit or seek legal action. Contact our law firm immediately so that we may explain the rights and options available to you and your family.

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