Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

Premature babies can develop a more prolonged form of lung disease, sometimes called chronic. The disease is called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, BPD.

Babies are diagnosed with BPD if they have a continuing need for oxygen or other respiratory support for a number of weeks, at least 4 weeks. When the baby has reached the age corresponding to week 36 of pregnancy, the severity of BPD it is suffering from will be determined: mild if oxygen is no longer needed; moderate if there is a continued need for oxygen, and severe if the baby needs more than 30% oxygen and/or other respiratory support (CPAP or ventilator).

The main cause of BPD is very immature lungs at birth and that the lungs do not develop properly and have a simpler structure and fewer air sacs (alveoli), which impair the ability to take up oxygen efficiently. Pneumonia can be triggered by infection or prolonged ventilator support using high pressure. The inflammation contributes to the development of BPD and can cause the lungs to swell.

There is no really effective treatment to cure BPD. Instead, the symptoms are treated with diuretics to reduce swelling. It is also important to create the right conditions for the lungs to grow by supplementing the baby's nutrition. Air sacs continue to develop over the first few years following birth and this means that lung function usually recovers well.

Some babies with BPD need to have oxygen therapy at home for a period of time after discharge from the neonatal ward, but most babies stop using oxygen within 1-2 months.

Text: Kajsa Bohlin Blennow