Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Chronic Lung Disease

High-Risk Newborns - Chronic Lung Disease

What is chronic lung disease?

Chronic lung disease (CLD) is a general term for long-term respiratory problems in premature babies. It is also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).

What causes chronic lung disease?

CLD results from lung injury to newborns who must use a mechanical ventilator and extra oxygen for breathing. The lungs of premature babies are fragile and are easily damaged. With injury, the tissues inside the lungs become inflamed and can break down causing scarring. This scarring can result in difficulty breathing and increased oxygen needs. Some of the causes of lung injury include the following:

Who is affected by chronic lung disease?

Chronic lung disease can develop in premature babies who have had mechanical ventilation (breathing machine). Risk factors for developing CLD include:

What are the symptoms of chronic lung disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of CLD. However, each baby may experience different symptoms of the condition. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of CLD may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is chronic lung disease diagnosed?

Because CLD is a chronic disease and appears gradually, doctors must look at several factors. It is often diagnosed when a premature baby with respiratory problems continues to need additional oxygen after reaching 28 days old. Chest X-rays compared with previous X-rays may show changes in the appearance of the lungs. The X-ray of lungs with CLD often have a bubbly, sponge-like appearance. X-rays are diagnostic tests which use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

Blood tests (test used to determine if enough oxygen is in the blood) and an echocardiography (test that use sound waves to create images of the heart to rule out defects) are also used to confirm causes of bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Treatment of chronic lung disease

Specific treatment for CLD will be determined by your baby's doctor based on:

Treatment of CLD may include:

CLD can be a long-term condition. Some babies with CLD require mechanical ventilators for several months. Some babies will continue to require oxygen when they go home from the hospital, but most can be weaned from oxygen by the end of their first year. Babies with CLD may be at increased risk for respiratory infection and may have to be re-hospitalized.

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