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How Is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Diagnosed?

Infants who are born early—usually more than 10 weeks before their due dates—and still need oxygen therapy by the time they reach their original due dates are diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).

BPD can be mild, moderate, or severe. The diagnosis depends on how much extra oxygen a baby needs at the time of his or her original due date. It also depends on how long the baby needs oxygen therapy.

To help confirm a diagnosis of BPD, doctors may recommend tests, such as:

  • A chest x ray. A chest x ray takes pictures of the structures inside the chest, such as the heart and lungs. In severe cases of BPD, this test may show large areas of air and signs that the lungs are inflamed or infected. A chest x ray also can detect problems such as a collapsed lung and show whether the lungs are developing normally.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests can show whether an infant has enough oxygen in his or her blood. Blood tests also can help determine whether an infection is causing an infant's breathing problems.
  • Echocardiography (echo). This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. Doctors use echo to rule out heart defects or pulmonary hypertension as the cause of an infant's breathing problems.
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January 12, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.