Infant respiratory function after RSV-proven bronchiolitis

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Apr;155(4):1349-55. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.155.4.9105078.


The mechanisms underlying the increased risk of wheezing in early childhood following acute bronchiolitis in infancy remain unclear. Previous studies have reported significant abnormalities in infant respiratory function after clinical recovery from bronchiolitis, but are difficult to interpret because of the frequent omission of a concurrent comparison group. Respiratory function was compared within pairs of previously healthy full-term caucasian infants admitted with a first episode of acute bronchiolitis to an inner London hospital, and age- and sex-matched control infants without prior wheezing, asthma, or lower respiratory illness who were recruited from local general practices. Respiratory function was measured in 29 control and 29 asymptomatic index infants, with measurements in the latter done at a median interval of 36 wk (range: 16 to 49 wk) after admission, when 16 (55%) had experienced subsequent wheezing. Index infants tended to be autumn-born and of shorter gestation than control infants, to have younger mothers, and to have been exposed to tobacco smoke. There were no statistically significant differences in plethysmographic FRC, initial inspiratory airway resistance (Raw), or respiratory system compliance (mean [index minus control] within-pair difference [95% confidence interval]: -11 ml [-29, 7 ml]; -0.2 kPa/L/s [-0.7, 0.4 kPa/L/s]; -8 ml/kPa [-21, 4 ml/kPa], respectively), but respiratory rate and time to peak tidal flow as a proportion of total expiratory time (tPTEF:tE) were significantly diminished in index as compared with control infants (-4.0 breaths/min [-7.6, -0.4 breaths/min], versus -0.035 [-0.066, -0.005], respectively). These findings suggest a better prognosis for infant lung function after acute bronchiolitis than reported previously. Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify whether subclinical alterations in airway function precede acute bronchiolitis.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / physiopathology*
  • Bronchiolitis, Viral / virology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Sounds / physiology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human*
  • Time Factors