Over the past year, a series of papers have reviewed the literature concerning assessment and interpretation of lung function in infants and young children with chronic lung disease of infancy. This manuscript, which represents the final paper in that series, summarizes the findings to date and highlights key areas for future research. Despite the huge literature in this field, interpretation of results and their use in guiding clinical management are still limited by difficulties in 'normalizing data' according to body size and maturation and selection of appropriate control groups. Furthermore, sensitive tests that more closely reflect the underlying pathophysiology of 'new' bronchopulmonary dysplasia, together with simple and reliable methods of assessing lung maturity at birth and true oxygen requirements at specified time points are urgently required. Research in this field is also challenged by the need to separate the independent effects of genetic predisposition, gene-environment interactions, preterm delivery, neonatal respiratory disorders and various treatment strategies on the growing lung. The extent to which disruption of lung growth following premature exposure to the extra-uterine environment leads to an earlier or more aggravated decline in respiratory function in later adult life remains to be elucidated. Whatever its origin, given the increasing survival of smaller and more immature infants, the long term sequelae of neonatal lung disease, are likely to continue to change, requiring ongoing, carefully designed longitudinal studies. Future research strategies need to encompass a multicenter, multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach with closer links between clinicians and basic scientists, to ensure that the most relevant research questions are addressed using appropriate methodology and that findings are implemented into clinical practice in a more timely fashion.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.