Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) or Chronic Lung Disease is a problem that usually arises in premature babies born more than 4 weeks premature (under 36 weeks gestation), weighing less than 3 ½ pounds (less than 1500 grams), and within the first 4 weeks of birth. Premature babies born with BPD have lungs that do not work properly making breathing very difficult. Extra oxygen is required and many times a breathing machine (ventilator) is also needed. Premature babies develop BPD from immature lungs, high levels of oxygen, ventilators, infections, pneumonia, or other environmental sources that cause irritation to the lungs.
The breathing problems in these premature babies must be treated quickly because this can lead to low oxygen levels in the blood affecting the premature baby’s brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. However, healthcare providers must be cautious about being too aggressive because some of the treatments can carry their own risk factors if used too freely or often. Many times the risks must be weighed to see which options are in the baby’s best interest for survival and that can change from moment to moment.
Some symptoms of BPD can include tachypnea, coughing, wheezing, chest retraction, see-saw like breathing, neck stretching, and episodes of blue skin. Doctors confirm the diagnosis and severity of BPD by using a chest x-ray, assessing the length of time oxygen is needed, and determining if lung injury has occurred. Treating BPD is tricky since there is no specific treatment or medicine that gets rid of it.
Treating the symptoms with oxygen, the infections with medicine, and keeping the premature baby well nourished with proper amounts of fluid will give the baby’s lungs the chance to mature and heal. Sometimes a premature baby will seem to exhibit symptoms of BPD, but the diagnosis will be Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). RDS, also known as Hyaline Membrane Disease, or Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome, is one of the most common lung problems in premature babies. Premature baby BPD (Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia) survivors tend to grow slower than usual, and be smaller than babies the same age.