Rationale: The markedly improved life expectancy of children with cystic fibrosis (CF) has created a new challenge, as traditional markers of lung disease are frequently normal in young children. This prevents identification of individuals who may benefit from more aggressive therapy and also obliges large study numbers and prolonged duration for intervention studies. There is an urgent need for alternative surrogates that detect early lung disease and track through early childhood.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine whether multiple-breath washout (MBW) results at preschool age can predict subsequent abnormal lung function.
Methods: Preschool children (3-5 yr) with CF and healthy control subjects underwent spirometry and MBW with testing repeated during early school age (6-10 yr). Primary outcomes were FEV1 from spirometry and lung clearance index (LCI) from MBW.
Measurements and main results: Forty-eight children with CF and 45 healthy children completed testing. Thirty-five (73%) children with CF had abnormal LCI at preschool age, whereas only five had abnormal FEV1. The positive predictive value of preschool LCI for predicting any abnormal school-age result was 94%, with a negative predictive value of 62%. Only one child with abnormal FEV1 at school age had had a normal preschool LCI. In contrast, for preschool FEV1 the positive predictive value was 100%, but negative predictive value was only 25%.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that an abnormal preschool LCI predicts subsequent lung function abnormalities, whereas a normal preschool LCI usually remains normal. MBW has potential as a clinical and research outcome in young children with CF.