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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?

Many babies who develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) are born with serious respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). The signs and symptoms of RDS at birth are:

  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Sharp pulling in of the chest below and between the ribs with each breath
  • Grunting sounds
  • Flaring of the nostrils

Babies who have RDS are treated with surfactant replacement therapy. They also may need oxygen therapy (oxygen given through nasal prongs, a mask, or a breathing tube).

Shortly after birth, some babies who have RDS also are treated with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) or ventilators (machines that support breathing).

Often, the symptoms of RDS start to improve slowly after about a week. However, some babies get worse and need more oxygen or breathing support from NCPAP or a ventilator.

A first sign of BPD is when premature infants—usually those born more than 10 weeks early—still need oxygen therapy by the time they reach their original due dates. These babies are diagnosed with BPD.

Infants who have severe BPD may have trouble feeding, which can lead to delayed growth. These babies also may develop:

  • Pulmonary hypertension (PH). PH is increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries. These arteries carry blood from the heart to the lungs to pick up oxygen.
  • Cor pulmonale. Cor pulmonale is failure of the right side of the heart. Ongoing high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and the lower right chamber of the heart causes this condition.
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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.