Impaired respiratory function has been found frequently in ex-premature children, but it is unclear which specific factors influence this impairment the most. The aim of this study was to determine the importance of the contributions of birth weight, gestational age, neonatal respiratory disease, and its treatment on subsequent childhood lung function at age 11 years in a cohort of children of very low birth weight (VLBW; </=1,500 g). Detailed clinical histories were recorded, and lung function was measured in 60% (102 children) of surviving VLBW infants born 1981/1982, and compared with 82 matched control children (birth weight >2,000 g) of similar age. VLBW children were shorter and lighter than controls (P < 0.0001) at 11 years of age, and had reduced expiratory flows (P < 0.00001) and forced vital capacities (P < 0.001). The residual volume to total lung capacity ratio (RV/TLC ratio) was increased (P < 0.00001), while total lung capacity (TLC) remained unchanged. Those with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) had the lowest mean expiratory flows. Males had lower expiratory flows than females. On univariate analysis, gestational age by itself accounted for 8.8% of the explained variance in FEV(1) at 11 years of age, but birth weight accounted for 16% on its own; both together accounted for a further 0.2% (16.2%), suggesting that the latter was the dominant factor. On multivariate analysis, the contribution of birth weight and gestational age was small, and the best predictors at 11 years of age, which together explained 43.4% of the total variance in FEV(1), were log days of supplemental oxygen (9.6%) and a reported history of asthma (10.8%). For FEF(25-75), these predictors explained 7.2% and 13.4%, respectively, of the total explained variance of 40.6%. The relation between neonatal oxygen supplementation and childhood FEV(1) was such that up to 20 days of supplemental oxygen had little effect on subsequent FEV(1) at 11 years of age, but each additional week of supplemental oxygen after that time was associated with a progressive reduction in FEV(1) of 3%. These data confirm the significant role of supplemental oxygen in the neonatal period and a history of asthma on the subsequent reduction of expiratory flows in VLBW children. Birth weight was a more important prenatal factor than gestational age, but both were of lesser predictive significance than either supplemental oxygen or a reported history of asthma.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.