Chronic lung disease, or CLD, refers to long-lasting lung problems. In premature babies, chronic lung disease is caused by lung damage that can happen when a baby is mechanically ventilated or given oxygen. Scarring and inflammation cause trouble breathing and oxygenating the blood, and can last for months or years.
Difficulty breathing is the main symptom of chronic lung disease. Babies with CLD may need respiratory support past the first 28 days of life, or after 36 weeks gestational age. Chronic lung disease may affect the rest of the body as well. Babies with CLD may have heart problems and trouble eating or gaining weight.
Not all preemies who were on a ventilator will develop chronic lung disease. The chances of having chronic lung disease go up if a baby:
- Was born before 30 weeks gestation
- Weighed less than 3 lbs, 5 oz at birth
- Had sepsis or an infection soon after birth
- Is a boy or is Caucasian
- Had a PDA
Most children will outgrow chronic lung disease by about age 2, as their bodies grow new, healthy lung tissue. Treatment is given to help with the symptoms of CLD as the lungs mature. Common treatments include respiratory support to make breathing easier, high-calorie nutrition to help growth, and medications to open up the lungs and reduce swelling and infammation.