Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Chest cavity of preemie with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

What it is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) is an oxygen and blood restricting lung condition common in premature infants. Babies with this disorder have inflamed lung tissues, fewer alveoli, and pulmonary hypertension. Many preemies are born with decreased lung functions and are put on oxygen ventilators to help saturate their system with needed oxygen levels. Administering oxygen to such a small infant is stressful on their weak bodies and complications, such as BPD can arise. This disorder is a life long injury to the lungs and is commonly fatal to infants under 1000g. Research is somewhat new on this disorder and treatments and prevention methods are still being tested.

What causes BPD?

BPD is caused in premature infants by prolonged exposure to oxygen therapy. Many preemies are born with decreased lung function due to their underdeveloped body and are therefore put on oxygen ventilators to help them breathe. Research is now being focused on whether this disorder is due to the high levels of oxygen or the high-pressure barotraumas from the ventilator itself. Around 20-30% of premature infants that required oxygen therapy will develop BPD in varying degrees.

What are the symptoms of BPD?

Infants at higher risks for developing BPD are ones that were born premature and/or those that weigh under 1,000g at birth. If the infant is smaller than 1,000g the risk of acquiring BPD due to the use of a ventilator rises to 30-70%. Symptoms are commonly inflammation of lung tissues and fewer alveoli. Little is known about the symptoms of BPD survivors. BPD causes pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in lung arteries), parenchymal fibrosis (excess of fibrous tissues in lungs), and abnormal vascular development. Infants with this disorder have a harder time absorbing oxygen into their blood stream because the surface area of their lungs is decreased. BPD patients are also more prone to different types of lung and respiratory infections.

What are the treatments for BPD?

Treatment methods for this are more focused on making the survivors more comfortable. The damage done to the lungs by this disorder is irreversible. Although infants with BPD have a higher fatality rate, it is possible to live a health, yet restricted, life with BPD. This disorder may limit a person’s physical activity if excess amounts of oxygen are needed. However, while the infant is still in the womb the mother can ensure a lower chance of having a pre-term baby by ensuring a healthy diet and lifestyle. A new treatment has been emerging for patients with BPD, and its called Recombinant Human Superoxide Dismutase (rhSOD). In studies, patients that are administered rhSOD needed less respiratory medications than the patients administered the placebo.