Chronic lung disease in infants

Chronic lung disease, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), is a condition that causes breathing problems in newborns, usually those who are born too early (prematurely). The lungs may trap air or collapse, fill with fluid, and make extra mucus.

A newborn with chronic lung disease may grunt and wheeze, breathe rapidly, and flare the nostrils. The baby also may have skin that stretches between or under the ribs while the baby breathes in, and he or she may tire easily during feedings. The newborn's skin may look gray, pale, or blotchy. These symptoms may appear as early as 3 days after the baby is born.

There is no one test to diagnose chronic lung disease. A doctor may first suspect it if a baby has difficulty breathing and requires extra oxygen for a certain amount of time.

Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. Treatment usually includes oxygen therapy and sometimes using a ventilator, as well as medicines and nutritional therapy. Treatment does not cure chronic lung disease. However, it helps a newborn breathe more easily while the lungs mature and heal on their own.

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

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