Many premature babies face serious health challenges, not the least of which is breathing. But now research suggests that even relatively healthy preemies confront deficits in lung function that last into their second year, if not longer.
We have shown that healthy preterm infants have reduced lung function in the first months of life that persists into the second year of life, said principle investigator of the research, Marcus Herbert Jones, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. Healthy infants born prematurely may have smaller sized airways relative to the lung volume, he explained.
The research was published in the second issue for December of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical care medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.
That premature infants have less well developed lungs than their full term counterparts is well established, but researchers were unsure if preemies underwent a catch-up period of lung function development. To determine if that was the case, Dr. Jones and colleagues recruited 26 preterm infants born between 30 and 34 weeks gestation and compared their lung development and function to that of full term infants at about 10 weeks of age, then again at an average age of 15 months.
They found that lung capacity and development relative to body size was similar between the groups, but airway function was consistently lower in the premature infants at both evaluations.
We were unable to detect a catch-up period during the study. There was no change in the rate of increase of lung function when compared to full term infants, said Dr. Jones.
Remarkably, the researchers also found that premature infants who had more fully developed lungs, thus less need for supplemental oxygen after birth, actually faced greater respiratory problems than those who required prolonged supplemental oxy
|Contact: Keely Savoie|
American Thoracic Society