Advances in care now make it possible for more premature infants to survive. Ironically, many of the very interventions employed to ensure their viability such as mechanical ventilation and long-term use of oxygen can put many of these infants at high risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).
Common and chronic
Sometimes called chronic lung disease of neonates, BPD is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and is a source of significant morbidity and mortality in preterm infants, remaining a major cause of long-term medical, pulmonary, and neurodevelopmental morbidity. In fact, BPD is now the most common chronic lung disease of infancy in the United States, with between 5000 and 10,000 cases occurring every year, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
In addition, BPD can be due to other problems that can affect a newborn’s fragile lungs, such as trauma, pneumonia, and other infections. All of these can cause the inflammation and scarring associated with BPD, even in a full-term newborn or, very rarely, in older infants and children.
Babies with extremely low birth weight (less than 2.2 lb or 1000 g) are most at risk for developing BPD. Although most of these infants eventually outgrow the more serious symptoms, in rare cases and in combination with other complications of prematurity, BPD can be fatal.
Although the risk of serious permanent complications from BPD is fairly small, infants with BPD often grow more slowly than other babies, have problems gaining weight, and tend to lose weight when they’re sick.
Our review article will familiarize pediatricians with BPD’s current clinical definition, risk factors, treatments, and long-term care and health consequences in order to become best equipped to help achieve optimal health outcomes for these tiny survivors.