Background: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a chronic lung disease that often develops after mechanical ventilation in prematurely born infants with respiratory failure. It has become the most common form of chronic lung disease in infants in the United States. The long-term outcome for infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia has not been determined.
Methods: We studied the pulmonary function of 26 adolescents and young adults, born between 1964 and 1973, who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy. We compared the results with those in two control groups: 26 age-matched adolescents and young adults of similar birth weight and gestational age who had not undergone mechanical ventilation, and 53 age-matched normal subjects.
Results: Sixty-eight percent of the subjects with bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy (17 of the 25 tested) had airway obstruction, including decreases in forced expiratory volume in one second, forced expiratory flow between 25 and 75 percent of vital capacity, and maximal expiratory flow velocity at 50 percent of vital capacity, as compared with both control groups (P less than 0.0001 for all comparisons). Twenty-four percent of the subjects with bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy had fixed airway obstruction, and 52 percent had reactive airway disease, as indicated by their responses to the administration of methacholine or a bronchodilator. Hyperinflation (an increased ratio of residual volume to total lung capacity) was more frequent in the subjects with a history of bronchopulmonary dysplasia than in either the matched cohort (P less than 0.0006) or the normal controls (P less than 0.0004). Six of the subjects who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy had severe pulmonary dysfunction or current symptoms of respiratory difficulty.
Conclusions: Most adolescents and young adults who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia in infancy have some degree of pulmonary dysfunction, consisting of airway obstruction, airway hyperreactivity, and hyperinflation. The clinical consequences of this dysfunction are not known.