Skip to main content

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What is bronchopulmonary dysplasia?

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a long-term condition that affects your baby's lungs. BPD is also called chronic lung disease. BPD can prevent your baby's lungs from working properly and lead to serious breathing problems.

What causes BPD?

The exact cause of BPD is not known. The following conditions may increase your baby's risk of BPD:

  • Babies who are born premature or at a low birth weight are at increased risk of BPD. Most premature babies are born before vital organs have fully formed. They often have immature lungs that were damaged after birth. BPD often occurs in babies who weighed less than 2 pounds when they were born. The lower the birth weight and the more premature a baby is, the more likely he or she is to have BPD.
  • Other diseases or infections , such as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) or pneumonia, increase your baby's risk for BPD. A heart problem that is present before birth may also increase your baby's risk.
  • Oxygen treatment that is given for a long time or in high amounts may damage lung tissues. The use of positive pressure or a mechanical ventilator for more than a month can increase your baby's risk of BPD.

What are the signs and symptoms of BPD?

  • Breathing problems or shortness of breath
  • Cough with abnormal breath sounds, such as wheezing
  • Lips or nails that are pale or blue
  • Poor feeding
  • Swelling of the feet or ankles

How is BPD diagnosed?

  • Arterial blood gases (ABGs) measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your baby's blood. Blood is usually taken from an artery in your baby's wrist.
  • Blood tests may be needed. Blood tests give healthcare providers information about how your baby's body is working.
  • A chest x-ray is a picture of your baby's lungs and heart. It can help healthcare providers diagnose your baby's condition, or plan or monitor treatment.
  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of your baby's lungs. Your baby may be given contrast liquid before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if your baby has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • An echocardiogram (echo) uses sound waves to show pictures of your baby's heart on a monitor. The echo can show the size of the heart, how well it pumps, and how well blood flows through it.
  • A ventilation (V) and perfusion (Q) test is also called a VQ or VP scan. A VQ scan is a 2-part test that takes pictures of your baby's lungs. During the perfusion part of the test, dye is injected into your baby's blood vessels. Pictures are taken to see how blood flows in his or her lungs. During the ventilation part of the test, your baby will breathe in a type of gas. Pictures are taken to see how well his or her lungs take in oxygen.

How is BPD treated?

  • Medicines may be given to help open your baby's airways and decrease inflammation. Diuretics may be given to help your baby's body and lungs get rid of extra fluid. These medicines can help him or her breathe easier. Antibiotics help prevent or treat an infection.
  • Nutrition therapy may be given. A high-calorie liquid feeding may be given through a tube if your baby cannot drink milk. This tube goes directly to his or her stomach. Your baby may also receive total parenteral nutrition (TPN). TPN is given to your baby through an IV. Ask healthcare providers if you can breastfeed your baby.
  • Oxygen may be given to your baby if his or her blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Oxygen will help your baby breathe easier. Your baby may get oxygen through small tubes placed in his or her nostrils, or through a mask. He or she may be placed in an oxygen tent. Never take off your baby's oxygen tubes or mask or remove him or her from the tent without asking his or her healthcare provider first.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I contact my baby's healthcare provider?

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • Your baby has chills or a cough.
  • Your baby's skin is swollen or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your baby has trouble breathing.
  • Your baby is more sleepy, irritable, or fussy than usual.
  • Your baby is not able to eat or drink anything for 24 hours.
  • Your baby's skin, lips, or fingernails are pale or blue.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Learn more about Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Treatment options

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.