Babies who are born prematurely or who experience respiratory problems shortly after birth are at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), sometimes called chronic lung disease.
Although most infants fully recover from BPD and have few long-term health problems as a result, BPD can be a serious condition requiring intensive medical care.
A child is not born with BPD. It is something that develops as a consequence of prematurity and progressive lung inflammation.
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia involves abnormal development of lung tissue. It is characterized by inflammation and scarring in the lungs. It develops most often in premature babies, who are born with underdeveloped lungs.
"Broncho" refers to the airways (the bronchial tubes) through which the oxygen we breathe travels into the lungs.
"Pulmonary" refers to the lungs' tiny air sacs (alveoli), where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.
"Dysplasia" means abnormal changes in the structure or organization of a group of cells. The cell changes in BPD take place in the smaller airways and lung alveoli, making breathing difficult and causing problems with lung function.
Along with asthma and cystic fibrosis, BPD is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), between 5,000 and 10,000 cases of BPD occur every year in the United States.
Children with extremely low birth weight (less than 2.2 pounds or 1,000 grams) are most at risk for developing BPD. Although most of these infants eventually outgrow the more serious symptoms, in rare cases BPD — in combination with other complications of prematurity — can be fatal.
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