Bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung condition that affects newborn babies who were either put on a breathing machine after birth or were born very early (prematurely).


Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) occurs in severely ill infants who have received high levels of oxygen for long periods of time or who have been on a breathing machine (ventilator).

It is more common in infants born early (prematurely), whose lungs were not fully developed at birth.

Risk factors include:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Prematurity, usually in infants born before 32 weeks gestation
  • Severe respiratory or lung infection

The risk of severe BPD has decreased in recent years.


Exams and Tests



A breathing machine (ventilator) is usually needed to send pressure to the lungs to keep the baby's lung tissue inflated, and to deliver more oxygen. Pressures and oxygen levels are slowly reduced. After being weaned from the ventilator, the infant may continue to get oxygen by a mask or nasal tube for several weeks or months.

Infants with BPD are usually fed by tubes inserted into the stomach (NG tube). These babies need extra calories due to the effort of breathing. Infants may need to limit fluids, and may be given medications that remove water from the body (diuretics) to keep the lungs from filling with fluid. Other medications can include corticosteroids, bronchodilators, and surfactant.

Parents of these infants need emotional support, because it can take time for the disease to get better, and the infant may need to stay in the hospital for a long time.


Infants with BPD may need oxygen therapy for weeks to months after leaving the hospital. It is very important for all infants with chronic lung disease to receive enough calories as they recover. Many will need tube feedings or special formulas.

It is very important to prevent your child from getting colds and other respiratory infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

A simple way to help prevent RSV infection is to wash your hands often, especially before touching your baby. It's important to make certain that other people, especially caregivers, take precautions to avoid giving RSV to your baby. The following simple steps can help protect your baby:

  • Insist that others wash their hands with warm water and soap before touching your baby.
  • Have others avoid contact with your baby if they have a cold or fever. If necessary, it may be helpful for them to wear a mask.
  • Be aware that kissing your baby can spread RSV infection.
  • Try to keep young children away from your baby. RSV is very common among young children and easily spreads from child to child.
  • Do not smoke inside your house, car, or anywhere near your baby. Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of RSV illness.

Parents with high-risk infants should avoid crowds during outbreaks of RSV. Moderate-to-large outbreaks are often reported in the local news and newspapers to provide parents with an opportunity to avoid exposure.

The drug palivizumab (Synagis) is approved for the prevention of RSV disease in children younger than 24 months who are at high risk for serious RSV disease. Ask your doctor whether your child is at high risk for RSV and if he or she needs this medicine.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Babies with BPD get better slowly over time. It's possible for infants to need oxygen therapy for many months. Some infants with this condition might not survive. Some children are left with long-term lung damage.

Possible Complications

Babies who have had BPD are at greater risk for repeated respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that require a hospital stay. Many of the airway (bronchiole) changes in babies with BPD will not go away.

Other potential complications in babies who have had BPD are:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If your baby had BPD, watch for any breathing problems. Call your health care provider if you see any signs of a respiratory infection.


To help prevent BPD:

Prevent premature delivery whenever possible. Certain pregnant women can take the medication betamethasone to help prevent RSV in their newborns.

The health care provider should take the baby off breathing assistance early, if possible, and use a substance that helps open the baby's lungs (surfactant).

Alternative Names

BPD; Chronic lung disease - children; CLD - children


Cowie RL, Murray J, Becklake MR. Disorders of the intrathoracic airways. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 44.

Dudell GG, Stoll BJ. Respiratory tract disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 101.

Update Date: 4/10/2012

Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Proessor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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