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Diagnosing and Treating Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

There is no specific test for the diagnosis of BPD, and no specific cure.  However, there are treatments that help prevent, delay or minimize the symptoms.

How Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Is Diagnosed

The diagnosis of BPD is based on the infant's clinical situation, how premature he or she is, and the need for oxygen after a certain age.  There are no blood tests, and biopsies are not needed.

How Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia Is Treated

Several types of drug therapies may be used to treat BPD:

  1. Diuretics: This class of drugs helps to decrease the amount of fluid in and around the alveoli. They are usually given by mouth 1 to 4 times per day.
  2. Bronchodilators: These medications help relax the muscles around the air passages, thus making breathing easier by widening the diameter of the airway openings. They are usually given as a mist by a mask over the infant's face and using a nebulizer or an inhaler with a spacer.
  3. Corticosteroids: These drugs reduce and/or prevent the inflammation within the lungs. They help reduce swelling within the walls of the windpipes and decrease the amount of mucus that is produced. Like bronchodilators, they are also usually given as an aerosol with a mask, either with use of a nebulizer or an inhaler with a spacer.
  4. Viral immunization: Children with BPD are at increased risk from respiratory tract infections especially respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Infants with moderate or severe BPD receive monthly injections with a medication that helps prevent the infection during the RSV season.
  5. Cardiac medications: A few infants with BPD may require special medications that help relax the muscles around the blood vessels in the lung, allowing the blood to pass more freely reduce the strain on the heart.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Page Last Updated: May 9, 2018

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