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Airway obstruction in young adults born extremely preterm or extremely low birth weight in the postsurfactant era


Background It is unknown if adults born <28 weeks or <1000 g since surfactant has been available are reaching their full airway growth potential.

Objective To compare expiratory airflow at 25 years and from 8 to 25 years of participants born <28 weeks or <1000 g with controls, and within the preterm group to compare those who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia with those who did not.

Methods All survivors born <28 weeks or <1000 g in 1991–1992 in Victoria, Australia, were eligible. Controls were born contemporaneously, weighing >2499 g. At 8, 18 and 25 years, expiratory airflows were measured and the results converted to z-scores. Outcomes were compared between groups at age 25 years, and trajectories (change in z-scores per year) from childhood were contrasted between groups.

Results Expiratory airflows were measured at 25 years on 164 of 297 (55%) preterm survivors and 130 of 260 (50%) controls. Preterm participants had substantially reduced airflow compared with controls at age 25 years (eg, zFEV1; mean difference −0.97, 95% CI −1.23 to –0.71; p<0.001). Preterm participants had lower airflow trajectories than controls between 8 and 18 years, but not between 18 and 25 years. Within the preterm group, those who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia had worse airflows and trajectories than those who did not.

Conclusions Young adults born <28 weeks or <1000 g in the surfactant era, particularly those who had bronchopulmonary dysplasia, have substantially reduced airway function compared with controls. Some are destined to develop COPD in later adult life.

  • Paediatric Lung Disaese
  • COPD epidemiology
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