SYDNEY, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Australian scientists have produced the most detailed images ever of newborns' lungs as they take their first breaths, showing the complex mechanism behind how babies adapt to breathing air.
Released Thursday by Australia's Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), the study used cutting-edge technology to take detailed images of the lungs, better explaining why most newborns cry as they enter the world.
"There is a reason why parents, midwives and obstetricians are pleased to hear those first life-affirming cries when a baby is born," MCRI Associate Prof. David Tingay said.
"Crying is a process that quickly aerates the lung, which is why 80 percent of all breaths immediately after birth are cries."
The researchers were amazed to see how important the exhaling process was as well, with babies' lungs at risk of collapsing due to fluid refilling air-spaces as they breath out.
"Babies are remarkably clever, as they breath out after a cry they move gas from well aerated regions to those areas of the lungs that are still filled with fluid preventing collapse. Babies will keep doing this until their lungs are safely filled with air and then they can start breathing normally."
The research stemmed from a desire to better detect when babies' lungs might be failing in order to make resuscitation efforts faster and more precise.
Around 10 percent of newborns, and almost all preterm infants, require resuscitation at birth because their lungs do not properly fill with air.
"Respiratory problems are the most common reason we need to treat babies in intensive care," Tingay said.
Recent breakthroughs in technology offered the chance to conduct the study without being invasive, using electrical impedance tomography (EIT), where a small silk belt is placed around the baby's chest to produce high resolution images of the lungs.
"This study has shown that babies' lungs are far more complicated than traditional monitoring methods had previously suggested," Tingay said.
The team hopes that a better understanding of the process will make birthing safer and offer options to quickly and noninvasively detect whether there is a problem with a newborn's lungs.
"Improving interventions in the delivery room first requires understanding the processes that define success and failure of breathing at birth," Tingay said.
"We hope that being able to see these unique breathing patterns in the delivery room will tell clinicians when a baby needs resuscitation and also guide how effective that resuscitation is."