Complications of chronic lung disease

Most babies who have chronic lung disease survive, and many outgrow their lung problems. However, complications sometimes develop. Complications that affect the heart and lungs are the most dangerous.

Infants who have chronic lung disease may develop complications shortly after the disease appears, including:

  • Respiratory infections. Pneumonia (viral or bacterial) is the most common. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is often the cause of these infections.
  • Airway obstruction. Some infants who have chronic lung disease experience some obstruction of their airway that is caused by narrowing of and damage to the airway (laryngotracheal stenosis and tracheomalacia), conditions that are associated with prolonged or more frequent use of breathing tubes.
  • Infection in the bloodstream (sepsis).
  • Increased blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) leading to enlargement of the right side of the heart and possible heart failure, which occurs in infants who are severely affected.
  • Respiratory distress that requires a ventilator to help with breathing throughout early childhood.

Complications that can occur later include:

  • High blood pressure. Doctors usually can treat this condition with medicine.
  • Growth problems. Compared with other children of the same age, children who have chronic lung disease may be shorter, weigh less, have a smaller head, have hearing or vision problems, and have learning problems.
  • Cerebral palsy , which is a group of motor problems and physical disorders that result from a brain injury or abnormal brain development.

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

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