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Respiratory distress is encountered frequently in newborns and represents the most frequent indication for re-evaluation of the young infant. Because respiratory distress in the newborn may be a potentially life-threatening condition, physicians are expected to assess and manage affected infants promptly. The key to successful management of the infant who has respiratory distress is based on the ability to obtain a complete maternal and newborn history, perform a thorough physical examination, recognize the common respiratory disorders, differentiate among various diagnostic entities, and identify those that are life-threatening.

Respiratory distress in the newborn is characterized by one or more of the following: nasal flaring, chest retractions, tachypnea, and grunting. Nasal flaring is a relatively frequent finding in an infant attempting to decrease airway resistance. Suprasternal retraction indicates upper airway obstruction. Subcostal retraction, on the other hand, is a less specific sign that...

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