Children with cystic fibrosis (CF) develop bronchopulmonary disease at variable ages. Determining the epidemiology of chronic lung disease and quantifying its severity, however, have been difficult in infants and young children. As part of the Wisconsin CF Neonatal Screening Project, we were presented with an ideal opportunity to assess longitudinally the evolution of symptoms, signs, and quantitative measures of CF respiratory disease. After newborn screening test results led to early recognition, 64 patients diagnosed at a median age of 6.71 weeks were enrolled and studied systematically at a median age of 11.3 years to obtain clinical information, chest radiographs, and pulmonary function tests. Our observations revealed that a frequent cough by history is evident by 10.5 months of age in half the patients. Quantitative chest radiology (CXR scoring) demonstrated that potentially irreversible abnormalities are present in half the children by 2 years. The severity of Wisconsin and Brasfield CXR scores increased in association with respiratory infections. Longitudinal progression of Wisconsin CXR scores was related to age (P < 0.001), pancreatic insufficiency (P = 0.005), and respiratory secretion cultures positive for Staphylococus aureas (P = 0.039). In contrast, serial spirometry showed limited sensitivity, as did lung volume determinations; neither was satisfactory as repeated measures with acceptable quality control until after 7 years of age. Time to event analyses revealed that half the patients had % predicted FEF(25-75) and FEV(1)/FVC values greater than 80% until 10.7 and 9.9 years, respectively. We conclude that of the methods evaluated, quantitative chest radiology is currently the best procedure for frequent assessment of bronchopulmonary disease in CF, and that radiographic progression is evident in approximately 85% of patients by 5 years of age. Our results also suggest that bronchiectasis and other radiographic evidence of chronic infection are apparent prior to airways obstruction in young CF patients.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.