The Damaging Breath of Life for Kentucky Preemies

When an infant is born in a Kentucky hospital eight or more weeks premature, he or she is at risk for a number of problems. One of these problems, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), is caused by the very treatment that is used to keep the baby alive and reduce the risk of brain damage.

What Is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?

BPD usually occurs in infants born before 32 weeks’ gestation. Because their lungs are not developed enough to take in the amount of air they need, premature babies often are born with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and are given oxygen. The oxygen, especially when delivered through a ventilator, can cause inflammation and scarring in their lungs, leading to BPD. If a baby is still on a ventilator at 36 weeks after conception, the condition is considered BPD.

According to the American Lung Association, 5,000 to 10,000 infants born each year in the United States have BPD. The incidence is much higher today than it was 30 years ago, not only because of the increase in population but because more premature babies survive.

Symptoms of BPD

Babies with BPD may display the following symptoms:

  • rapid, shallow breathing;
  • blue coloring around the lips and nails (cyanosis) because of the low oxygen level in the blood;
  • sucked-in ribs and chest;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing; and
  • poor posture of the neck, shoulders, and trunk.

Diagnosis and Treatment of BPD

Babies with RDS usually undergo a chest X-ray while they are recovering. BPD is a possibility if the image shows spongy lung tissue.

When babies are diagnosed with BPD, they are usually moved into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they are able to breathe on their own, unassisted. Treatment may last from a few weeks to a few months and may include the following:

  • warming via a radiant warmer or incubator;
  • intravenous delivery of fluids and nutrients;
  • monitoring of heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, temperature, and fluid intake;
  • administration of medications, such as the following:
    • bronchodilators to keep the airways open;
    • diuretics to decrease the amount of fluid buildup in the lungs; and
    • antibiotics to ward off bacterial infections because infants with BPD are more at risk for developing pneumonia.

Preventing BPD

The best way to treat BPD is to do your best to prevent it from occurring. Here are a few ways a pregnant woman can give her baby the best shot at being born full-term:

  • Get regular prenatal care.
  • Eat nutritious foods.
  • Do not smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs.
  • Take care of any medical conditions you have.
  • Avoid catching illnesses by washing your hands regularly and avoiding people who have a cold or the flu.

If you have had a premature baby previously, you may receive a medication that helps to delay delivery. You may also get injections of a drug that accelerates development of the lungs and other organs, thereby reducing your baby’s chance of developing RDS.

If your baby suffered a birth injury in Kentucky, get in touch with a Louisville birth injury attorney at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.