What Is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia And Its Causes?

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia refers to a breathing disorder in which lungs become irritated. In this condition, the normal development of the lungs does not occur. It may appear in infants with low weight born in premature delivery.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is also called chronic lung disease of infancy, respiratory insufficiency, chronic lung disease of premature babies, and neonatal chronic lung disease. The symptoms of bronchopulmonary dysplasia can be severe, moderate, or mild.

Many infants recover from this disorder completely. Others may experience breathing problems for the first two years of their life. They can also suffer from these issues even in teen and adult age. Babies with bronchopulmonary dysplasia need medical care at the hospital.

This disorder is noted in infants with RDS or respiratory distress syndrome. It is common in premature babies because their lungs are developed completely. Many infants around the world suffer from this disorder.


When a premature baby is treated using a breathing machine or receives extra oxygen, bronchopulmonary dysplasia can develop. Oxygen is required when a baby is born too early. The reason is that his lungs are not completely developed.

This helps an infant to breathe easily. But if you are giving oxygen to an infant under pressure like through a ventilator, it can cause damage to the air sacs present in the lungs. It can cause the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Infants who have an infection before after a little time of their birth can also suffer from this disorder. Proper examination of infants is needed to detect such conditions on an early basis.


Symptoms of bronchopulmonary dysplasia are given below.

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing problems or fast breathing
  • Grunting in the breathing
  • Nostrils flare during breathing
  • Breathing pauses for a few seconds
  • Skin pulling between collar and rib bones
  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis)


Most infants are examined and diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia when they are in the hospital already. The child team will examine the symptoms in your baby to diagnose this disorder. They also check the duration of prematurity of your baby.

Your baby may need oxygen in a specific amount after a specific age. The child team may perform the following tests.

  • MRI, X-ray, or CT scan to examine the normal growth of lungs.
  • Blood tests to check the infections and levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.
  • An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test performed to view a baby’s heart and detect any heart issue that may cause breathing problems.
  • Pulse-oximetry to examine the oxygen levels in the blood consistently.


The care treatment team uses specific treatment to control the damage that occurs to your baby’s lungs. The main goal of the team is the healing of the lungs of your child. Treatments promote the healthy growth of the lungs of your child.

Following are treatment options that doctors can recommend for chronic lung disease prematurity.

  • Mechanical Ventilator: Your child may require a tracheostomy (a surgical placement of a breathing tube in an infant’s windpipe) for long-term use.
  • Oxygen: Additional oxygen helps an infant to breathe easily.
  • Nutrition Therapy: This treatment makes sure that your baby is getting complete nutrition. Some babies require a g-tube to allow food to go directly into the stomach through a tube.
  • Medications: Doctors can recommend certain medications to your child to promote the development and proper functions of the lungs.
  • Bronchodilators: These are used to improve the airflow through the lungs.
  • Diuretics: Your baby may need diuretics to decrease extra fluid.
  • Antibiotics: These medicines are given to prevent pneumonia and control several infections.
  • Pulmonary Vasodilators: They help to improve the flow of blood to the area of the lungs.

The child care team adjusts these treatments according to the situation of your child. They may also change the treatment plan over time.

Related Disorders

Some related disorders to bronchopulmonary dysplasia are:

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)

Risk Factors

Infants may have certain risk factors that make them vulnerable to developing the condition of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. These risk factors are:

  • Having a weight less than 2.2 pounds
  • Premature birth (more than two months earlier)
  • Having RDS


Infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia may experience the following complications as they grow.

  • Breathing issues as an adult or child
  • Delayed development and growth specifically in the first two years of life
  • Health issues after going back home from the hospital¬†
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vulnerability to get flu, cold and other infections

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