Objective: While respiratory symptoms in the first year of life are relatively well described for term infants, data for preterm infants are scarce. We aimed to describe the burden of respiratory disease in a group of preterm infants with and without bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and to assess the association of respiratory symptoms with perinatal, genetic and environmental risk factors.
Methods: Single centre birth cohort study: prospective recording of perinatal risk factors and retrospective assessment of respiratory symptoms during the first year of life by standardised questionnaires.
Main outcome measures: Cough and wheeze (common symptoms), re-hospitalisation and need for inhalation therapy (severe outcomes).
Patients: 126 preterms (median gestational age 28.7 weeks; 78 with, 48 without BPD) hospitalised at the University Children's Hospital of Bern, Switzerland 1999-2006.
Results: Cough occurred in 80%, wheeze in 44%, re-hospitalisation in 25% and long term inhalation therapy in wheezers in 13% of the preterm infants. Using logistic regression, the main risk factor for common symptoms was frequent contact with other children. Severe outcomes were associated with maximal peak inspiratory pressure, arterial cord blood pH, APGAR- and CRIB-Score.
Conclusions: Cough in preterm infants is as common as in term infants, whereas wheeze, inhalation therapy and re-hospitalisations occur more often. Severe outcomes are associated with perinatal risk factors. Preterm infants who did not qualify for BPD according to latest guidelines also showed a significant burden of respiratory disease in the first year of life.