Chronic lung disease is the general term for long-term breathing problems in premature babies. It is also called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
Premature babies may need a breathing machine (ventilator) and extra oxygen to breathe. Chronic lung disease happens when a breathing machine or oxygen injures a premature baby’s lungs. The lungs of premature babies are very fragile. They can be damaged easily.
With a lung injury, the tissues inside your baby’s lungs get inflamed. The tissue can break down, causing scarring. The scarring can cause trouble breathing, and your baby may need more oxygen. Lung injury may be caused by:
Chronic lung disease can happen in premature babies who have used a breathing machine. These things may make it more likely for a baby to have chronic lung disease:
The symptoms of chronic lung disease may seem like symptoms of other conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Chronic lung disease comes on slowly. Your child’s healthcare provider may look at several factors. It may be diagnosed when a premature baby with breathing problems still needs oxygen after reaching 28 days of age.
Your child’s healthcare provider may also do tests to confirm chronic lung disease. These can include:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe your child’s condition is. Treatment may include:
Chronic lung disease can be a long-term issue. Some babies need breathing machines for several months. Some babies need oxygen when they go home from the hospital. But most babies wean off oxygen by the end of their first year. Babies with this condition may have a higher risk for lung infections. Some may even need to stay in the hospital again.
Having a healthy pregnancy may keep your baby from being born before his or her lungs are fully formed. Not all causes of premature births can be prevented. But you can increase the chance of having a healthy pregnancy by doing the following:
If it looks like your baby may be born early, your healthcare provider may give you a shot (injection) of medicine called betamethasone. This corticosteroid medicine can help your baby’s lungs mature before he or she is born.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: