Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD, is a chronic lung disease that most commonly occurs in premature infants and is caused by a reaction to being on mechanical ventilation, or from being on oxygen.
Many infants are able to heal from BPD, while others go on to have chronic breathing problems.
The babies most likely to have BPD, however, are those who are born more than 10 weeks before their due date and weigh less than two pounds. Very often, the lungs are not fully developed in babies so small. And, their lungs lack surfactant, the liquid that lines the inside of the lungs. This makes it difficult for the baby’s lungs to properly inflate, and when the brain is deprived of oxygen for too long, lifelong handicaps can result.
Medical science has advanced to the degree that it’s not unusual for ultra-preemies to survive, however, BPD can become a serious complication. There is no cure for this condition, but treatments are evolving. Drug therapies include:
- Diuretics to help decrease the amount of fluid in the lungs
- Bronchodilators help relax muscles around the air passages
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation within the lungs and decrease the amount of mucus produced
- Viral immunization via monthly injections to prevent infection
- Cardiac medications, when necessary, to relax the muscles around the blood vessels in the lungs, which helps reduce the strain on the heart
To learn more about BPD, visit the American Lung Association online.
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