Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) is a lung disease which can be very serious. Recently, BPD has been seen in adults with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. However, BPD is most commonly diagnosed as a complication of respiratory therapy in prenatal infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Many infants with BPD do recover and improve with time to achieve normal or near normal function.
Most cases of bronchopulmonary dysplasia are seen in premature babies who developed Respiratory Distress Syndrome (also called Hyaline Membrane Disease) or RDS. RDS is a condition in which the baby’s lungs are not developed enough to take in the air they need.
These are usually the smallest premature babies. They are the ones born too soon-usually under eight months gestation. Babies with RDS must have oxygen and often need to have their breathing assisted by respirators to prevent brain damage and to save their lives.
But, the very oxygen premature babies need for life can be toxic to their lungs. When it must be delivered into the babies’ lungs by a respirator, it may be even more damaging. The infants whose lungs require this treatment are at risk for developing BPD.
HOW IS BPD DIAGNOSED?
The doctor usually finds BPD by taking an X-ray of the infant’s chest during the recovery phase of Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
HOW IS BPD TREATED?
There is no special treatment for BPD; although treatments such as the use of corticosteroids early in the illness are being tried. Most often the changes of BPD in the lungs improve with time due to the normal repairing process within the lung itself. The baby will require long term care, and patience on the part of everyone involved is essential. Oxygen, even though potentially toxic to the baby’s lungs, often must be supplied. Good nutrition must be maintained so the baby can grow. The baby must be fed by mouth or by intravenous feeding (into the veins). The infant’s general health must be watched carefully during this time and good nursing care is essential.
YOUR BABY NEEDS YOU NOW—EVERY DAY
Parents should visit daily to hold, cuddle, talk, sing or read to their baby. The baby needs to see you and hear the soothing sounds of your voice every day. These things are as important to health and normal development as medical care and food.
You must be involved in caring for your baby in the hospital so that a bond of affection develops. It will be easier for both of you at home if you are a familiar part of his or her daily life.
The doctor will want you to know about your baby’s breathing patterns and normal color while in the hospital.
WHEN WILL YOUR BABY GO HOME?
There is no set answer to this question. The baby should be able to breathe easily, although sometimes oxygen is given at home. The baby must be gaining weight, eating well, and be able to rest with little respiratory distress. At this point, the baby will probably be ready for discharge.
AFTER THE BABY GOES HOME
Your baby should be under a doctor’s care, either your family doctor, your pediatrician or the doctor at the health department.
Your baby’s lips or fingernail beds may turn blue during crying spells or at other stressful times. At rest he or she will usually return to normal color, but if a blue color is constantly present at rest, then your doctor should be called.
If your infant has any kind of respiratory infection, see the doctor.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOUR BABY LEAVES THE HOSPITAL
During the first two years, a child with BPD may have a number of lung infections. You should be careful to see the doctor when your baby has a cold, runny nose, cough, chest cold or fever.
Your baby may have to go back to the hospital if a significant lung illness develops. However, this will usually be a short stay and not a permanent setback.
Even though your infant had BPD, you should realize that there is an excellent chance for him or her to grown up as a normal child. Within a year or two, most former BPD youngsters have few respiratory problems and have no restriction in their activities and will require no special medical treatment.