This is the second paper in a review series that will summarize available data and discuss the potential role of lung function testing in infants and young children with acute neonatal respiratory disorders and chronic lung disease of infancy. The current paper addresses the expansive subject of measurements of lung volume using plethysmography and gas dilution/washout techniques. Following orientation of the reader to the subject area, we focus our comments on areas of inquiry proposed in the introductory paper to this series. The quality of the published literature is reviewed critically, and recommendations are provided to guide future investigation in this field. Measurements of lung volume are important both for assessing growth and development of lungs in health and disease, and for interpreting volume-dependent lung function parameters such as respiratory compliance, resistance, forced expiratory flows, and indices of gas-mixing efficiency. Acute neonatal lung disease is characterized by severely reduced functional residual capacity (FRC), with treatments aimed at securing optimal lung recruitment. While FRC may remain reduced in established chronic lung disease of infancy, more commonly it becomes normalized or even elevated due to hyperinflation, with or without gas-trapping, secondary to airway obstruction. Ideally, accurate and reliable bedside measurements of FRC would be feasible from birth, throughout all phases of postnatal care (including assisted ventilation), and during subsequent long-term follow-up. Although lung volume measurements in extremely preterm infants were described in a research environment, resolution of several issues is required before such investigations can be translated into routine clinical monitoring.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.