Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia is a lung condition that affects babies, especially premature babies. It can be a consequence of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome.
Either the lungs are damaged due to infection or they are under-developed and have not produced enough surfactant. Surfactant is a liquid that coats the inside of the lungs and helps keep the lungs open so that the baby can breathe. Without it, the lungs collapse.
Lack of oxygen can, in turn, cause heart problems, brain damage and even death.
Who is at Risk of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?
• Infants who have an infection in the womb
• Infants who have an infection during the birth or afterwards, for instance, Strep B
• Infants who have breathing difficulties at birth, for instance, through traumatic delivery or reaction to childbirth drugs
• Infants who are premature, particularly if they are more than 10 weeks premature and they weigh less than 2lbs
• Babies with heart problems
• A grunting noise when breathing
• Seeing the baby draw in his ribs sharply when breathing
• Fast and shallow breathing
• Flaring nostrils
Blood tests can determine the level of oxygen in the baby’s blood and whether or not he or she is suffering from bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
X-rays can also be done to determine the condition of the lungs.
If a heart condition is suspected, an echocardiogram will be performed. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to build an image of the heart. In this way, doctors can see if there are any defects.
If a pregnant mother goes into premature labor, she will be given steroid injections to help mature the baby’s lungs. This can prevent neonatal respiratory distress syndrome and associated bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
If a baby is already affected, he or she can be given oxygen therapy. This could be continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a constant stream of oxygen up the nose to assist with breathing. A mask might be used, or in severe cases, ventilation.
If there is a lack of surfactant, the baby may be given replacement surfactant to prevent his lungs from collapsing.
If he is premature, he may be given vitamins and other nutrients to help him grow stronger and if he has an infection, antibiotics to help clear it up.
Sometimes fluids may be restricted and caffeine given, which is a diuretic, because too much fluid can make the condition worse.
With the right treatment, most babies can recover with no lasting problems.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/
She is author of the book, "Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation" and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.