Chronic Lung Disease in Infants - Topic Overview
What is chronic lung disease?
Chronic lung disease
is a condition in which damaged tissue in a newborn baby's lungs causes
breathing and health problems. The lungs trap air or collapse, fill with fluid,
and produce extra
Most babies who have chronic lung
disease survive. And many children outgrow most of their lung problems.
Chronic lung disease is also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia
What causes chronic lung disease?
alone or in combination can lead to chronic lung disease include:
- Being born early (prematurely). Chronic lung
disease most commonly occurs in babies who are born before 26 weeks of
gestational age and who weigh less than
2.2 lb (1 kg).1 A premature baby's lungs may not be fully developed. This
makes the baby likely to have infections, swelling, and fluid buildup that
can lead to chronic lung disease.
- Injury to the lungs from the
forced breathing and high concentrations of oxygen that accompany treatment
ventilator. Many premature babies need this type of
treatment, especially those who have
respiratory distress syndrome.
- A heart
condition that is known as a
patent ductus arteriosus.
abnormalities that affect lung development.
- Fluid in the lungs.
Premature babies may be born with fluid in their lungs. Some babies who are
born prematurely or at full-term by
cesarean section develop fluid buildup in their lungs.
In rare cases, a newborn breathes
meconium into the lungs during delivery. This causes
lung irritation and inflammation that damage lung tissue and can lead to
chronic lung disease.
- Infections. Premature babies are more likely
to get lung infections, particularly
respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
- Lack of
nourishment. Newborns who are not able to get the proper nutrients,
particularly vitamin A, are more likely to develop chronic lung disease.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of chronic lung
disease may develop as soon as 3 days after birth.
common first symptom of chronic lung disease is difficulty breathing. You may
notice your newborn:
- Grunts or breathes
- Flares the nostrils.
- Uses the neck, chest, and
abdominal muscles to breathe. This can look like your baby is "sucking in" air
between or under the ribs (retractions).
- Wheezes, which is a
high-pitched sound that occurs with breathing.
- Tires easily during
and after feeding.
- Has pale, gray, or blotchy skin, especially on
the tongue, lips, earlobes, and nail beds.
How is chronic lung disease diagnosed?
There is no
one test to diagnose chronic lung disease. A doctor may first suspect it if
your baby has difficulty breathing. The diagnosis is confirmed when one of the
following is present:
- The baby needs extra oxygen for at least 28
days after birth.
- At 36 weeks of gestational age, the baby needs
more oxygen than is present in ordinary air. Gestational age is the number of
weeks and days a baby has developed since the beginning of the pregnancy, or