by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a chronic lung disease that can happen in newborns and babies. It can make it hard to breathe.

Infant Airway and Lungs
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BPD is caused by damage or injury to immature lungs from mechanical ventilation or long-term use of oxygen.

Risk Factors

BPD is more common in premature babies whose lungs are still developing. It is also more common in babies who have a very low birth weight. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Long-term use or injury from oxygen therapy or a ventilator
  • Infection or inflammation before or after birth, such as neonatal sepsis
  • Genetic problems that involve the lungs
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)—a lung disorder often affecting premature babies that causes problems breathing


Symptoms may be:

  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Problems breathing
  • A chest that sinks in between the ribs or under the ribcage with each breath
  • Wheezing or noisy breathing
  • Blue skin color


You will be asked about your baby's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lungs.

Blood tests may be done to look for genetic problems.

The baby’s lung function may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Pulse oximetry monitoring that uses an oxygen sensor on the baby's foot to find out how much oxygen is making it into the blood from the lungs
  • Pulmonary function tests to find out how well the lungs are working

Images may be taken. This can be done with:


Treatment options for BPD include:

Supportive Care

Supportive care may be needed, such as:

  • Oxygen or breathing support until a baby is stronger and can breathe well enough without help.
  • Nutrition therapy with a special formula or by IV or a feeding tube


Medicine may be needed, such as:

  • Surfactants to help the baby’s lungs expand the way they should
  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Bronchodilators to make it easier for air to get in and out of the lungs
  • Corticosteroids to ease swelling and inflammation of the airways
  • Diuretics to help remove extra fluid from the lungs


There are no guidelines to prevent BPD. Proper prenatal care during pregnancy may help lower the risk.


American Lung Association 

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics 


Health Canada 

The Lung Association 


Bronchopulmonary dysplasia. American Lung Association website. Available at: Accessed January 7, 2020.

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated October 25, 2019. Accessed January 7, 2020.

Jain D, Bancalari E. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia: clinical perspective. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2014 Mar;100(3):134-144.

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) of the newborn . EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated August 13, 2019. Accessed January 7, 2020.

4/1/2014 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance : Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 24, 2019. Accessed January 7, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 07/29/2020