An infant is described who presented a complex cardiopulmonary problem which was evaluated with the help of new physiological techniques. the infant was born at term after an emergency Caesarian section for fetal distress and was found to have meconium aspiration. He remained persistently tachypnoeic and hypoxic despite high ambient oxygen. Chest radiography suggested cystic lesions at the lung bases, and lung function tests confirmed hyperinflation with delayed nitrogen washout. In addition the child had signs of Fallot's tetralogy, and this diagnosis was confirmed by cardiac catheterization. Because of persistent hypoxia and tachypnoea disproportionate to the cardiac condition, the possibility of localized lung disease was considered. Regional lung function tests were carried out in the neonatal period and again at six months of age useing radioisotopic 13N given by both inhalation and injection. These studies showed gross ventilation/perfusion imbalance in the lungs, particularly marked at the bases, but with enough generalized abnormality to preclude the possibility of surgical intervention. The principles of the measurement of lung mechanics in the newborn by whole-body plethysmography, nitrogen washout, and regional radioisotopic spirometry are outlined. The particular value of these techniques in the evaluation of complex disorders is discussed, especially where both cardiac and pulmonary abnormalities are present.
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