Preterm lung disease, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), is abnormal development of the lungs and airways. BPD appears most often in premature babies—those born before 37 weeks gestation. It can also occur in late preterm infants born at 36 weeks or even in full-term babies who have respiratory problems in the first few days or weeks of life.
Symptoms of BPD include:
Your newborn will not be diagnosed with BPD immediately. Although the cause of BPD is unknown, we do know the risk factors. These risk factors help determine a diagnosis of BPD over the first month of a baby’s life. The risk factors of BPD include:
If your baby is born prematurely, he or she will remain in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until at least the expected due date. Depending on your baby’s condition, he or she may stay much longer. Neonatologists (doctors who specialize in caring for newborns) provide care for your baby in the NICU. The care team also includes registered dieticians, respiratory therapists, speech therapists, physical and occupational therapists and social workers.
Your baby must be able to breathe without a ventilator or oxygen mask before he or she can go home. A pulmonologist will see your child prior to discharge from the hospital and work with you to develop a care plan for when your child returns home. He or she will need to return to the hospital frequently for follow-up visits with a pulmonologist or nurse practitioner who will check his or her lung development and overall growth.
Although some babies with BPD require lifelong monitoring, most need hospital follow-ups only for the first one or two years of their lives. After that, their primary care doctor sees them. You should follow your child’s doctor’s recommendations to make sure your infant has the best opportunity to grow and develop properly.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health diagnose BPD and assess its severity based on your baby’s need for oxygen. Diagnostic tests for BPD include:
The severity of BPD depends on how much oxygen therapy your baby needs by the time of their original due date.
Depending on your baby’s condition, treatment for BPD may include:
Visit the online sources below to learn more about preterm lung disease (bronchopulmonary dysplasia).
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