What is bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)?
Bronchopulmonary [brong-ko-pul-mo-nar-e] dysplasia [dis-pla-ze-ah],
or BPD, is a chronic lung problem that affects infants. It occurs
when normal lung development is interrupted.

How are the lungs different with BPD?
The lungs move oxygen from the air into the
blood through tiny sacs called alveoli. Babies
with BPD have fewer, larger alveoli with thicker
walls. As a result, the baby must work harder
to get enough oxygen.

What causes BPD?
BPD can be due to prematurity or caused by
other factors, including long-term mechanical
ventilation, high levels of extra oxygen,
inflammation, or infection.

Who is at risk for BPD?
Most babies who develop BPD are born
before 30 to 32 weeks’ gestation and weigh
less than 2 pounds (about 1000 g) at birth.
They often have other breathing problems
(such as respiratory distress syndrome)
or a severe infection.

How is BPD diagnosed?
Doctors suspect BPD when the baby has trouble weaning from
mechanical ventilation or requires extra oxygen at or after 36 weeks’ gestational age.
Babies with BPD may have physical symptoms, such as cyanosis (bluish skin color), cough, or
shortness of breath. BPD also causes changes that can be seen on a chest x-ray.

What treatment will my baby receive?
BPD is treated by making it easier for your baby to breathe.
Treatment may include:
• Extra oxygen (sometimes needed for weeks to months)
• Medicines to help keep the lungs open (bronchodilators,
inhaled steroids, and/or surfactant)
• Lowered fluid intake and/or medicines (diuretics) to help
keep fluid out of the lungs
• Extra calories, because babies with BPD use so much
energy to breathe

How will I know how my baby is doing?
Your health care team will keep you up-to-date on your
baby. They have several ways to measure breathing and
lung health, including:
• Vital signs, such as heart rate, breathing rate, blood
pressure, and oxygen saturation
• How much help the baby needs to breathe
• Growth

What will happen next?
Most babies respond to treatment for BPD over time due
to normal lung growth. However, they may continue to have
lung problems and are at a higher risk for severe respiratory
infections. Some babies with BPD may have poor growth
and delayed development because of decreased lung function.
Talk to the health care team. They can answer any questions
you have about your baby.

Glossary
Bronchodilators – medicines
that open the airways and make
it easier to breathe
Cyanosis – bluish color of the skin
Diuretics – medicines that remove
extra water from the body
Gestational age – measures how
far along the pregnancy is from
the first day of the women’s last
menstrual cycle to the current date
Mechanical ventilation – use of a
machine to help the baby breathe
by moving air in and out of the lungs.

Oxygen saturation – relative
amount of oxygen in the blood
Respiratory Distress Syndrome
(RDS) – a condition in which
the lungs do not make enough
surfactant. This problem makes
it harder to breathe
Steroids – medicines to reduce
inflammation. Steroids can spread
throughout the body
Surfactant – a liquid that keeps
the alveoli (tiny sacs in the lungs)
from collapsing while breathing out

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