Chronic Lung Disease of Prematurity

Chronic lung disease of prematurity (CLDP) is also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. It occurs in premature babies, typically those born before 28 weeks gestation. These babies suffer with respiratory distress syndrome and require oxygen therapy or intubation and ventilation at birth. Diagnosis is made based on chest xray changes and when the infant requires oxygen therapy after they reach 36 weeks gestational age.



  • Low oxygen saturations
  • Increased work of breathing
  • Poor feeding and weight gain
  • Crackles and wheezes on chest auscultation
  • Increased susceptibility to infection



There are several measure that can be taken to minimise the risk of CLDP. Giving corticosteroids (e.g. betamethasone) to mothers that show signs of premature labour at less than 36 weeks gestation can help speed up the development of the fetal lungs before birth and reduce the risk of CLDP.

Once the neonate is born the risk of CLDP can be reduced by:

  • Using CPAP rather than intubation and ventilation when possible
  • Using caffeine to stimulate the respiratory effort
  • Not over-oxygenating with supplementary oxygen



A formal sleep study to assess their oxygen saturations during sleep supports the diagnosis and guides management. Babies may be discharged from the neonatal unit on a low dose of oxygen to continue at home, for example 0.01 litres per minute via nasal cannula. They are followed up to wean the oxygen level over the first year of life.

Babies with CLDP require protection against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to reduce the risk and severity of bronchiolitis. This involves monthly injections of a monoclonal antibody against the virus called palivizumab. This is very expensive (around £500 per injection) so is reserved for babies meeting certain criteria.


Last updated August 2019
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