Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects the lungs of many premature infants. These are infants who were born dangerously premature, over 10 weeks before they were due to be born.
The lungs in such tiny newborns are not fully ready to oxygenate the body. Their lungs are delicate, thin, and poorly developed. BPD is the condition of inflammation and scarring in the lungs of these premature infants. It makes it difficult or even impossible for them to oxygenate their little bodies without help.
Every year in the U.S., 5,000-10,000 babies develop BPD. This high number is due to the lifesaving devices and medicine that have made it possible to save even very premature babies that would have otherwise died at birth. Many of these babies will not only survive, but will be able to live normal healthy lives.
Oxygen is delivered to babies with bronchopulmonary dysplasia in the hospital- a necessary evil. While it is needed to save the baby’s life, it can also slow development of the lungs. Using a ventilator to assist the baby in breathing can cause further inflammation and damage.
BPD can lead to lung infections. A child who has left the hospital may still need treatment even for minor colds, during the first two years of life. Some babies will require oxygen treatment, medication, and/or breathing treatments for varying lengths of time.