Structural and functional defects within the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis (CF) are detectable soon after birth and progress throughout preschool years often without overt clinical signs or symptoms. By school age, most children have structural changes such as bronchiectasis or gas trapping/hypoperfusion and lung function abnormalities that persist into later life. Despite improved survival, gains in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) achieved across successive birth cohorts during childhood have plateaued, and rates of FEV1 decline in adolescence and adulthood have not slowed. This suggests that interventions aimed at preventing lung disease should be targeted to mild disease and commence in early life. Spirometry-based classifications of ‘normal’ (FEV1≥90% predicted) and ‘mild lung disease’ (FEV1 70%–89% predicted) are inappropriate, given the failure of spirometry to detect significant structural or functional abnormalities shown by more sensitive imaging and lung function techniques. The state and readiness of two imaging (CT and MRI) and two functional (multiple breath washout and oscillometry) tools for the detection and monitoring of early lung disease in children and adults with CF are discussed in this article.
Prospective research programmes and technological advances in these techniques mean that well-designed interventional trials in early lung disease, particularly in young children and infants, are possible. Age appropriate, randomised controlled trials are critical to determine the safety, efficacy and best use of new therapies in young children. Regulatory bodies continue to approve medications in young children based on safety data alone and extrapolation of efficacy results from older age groups. Harnessing the complementary information from structural and functional tools, with measures of inflammation and infection, will significantly advance our understanding of early CF lung disease pathophysiology and responses to therapy. Defining clinical utility for these novel techniques will require effective collaboration across multiple disciplines to address important remaining research questions. Future impact on existing management burden for patients with CF and their family must be considered, assessed and minimised.
To address the possible role of these techniques in early lung disease, a meeting of international leaders and experts in the field was convened in August 2019 at the Australiasian Cystic Fibrosis Conference. The meeting entitiled ‘Shaping imaging and functional testing for early disease detection of lung disease in Cystic Fibrosis’, was attended by representatives across the range of disciplines involved in modern CF care. This document summarises the proceedings, key priorities and important research questions highlighted.
- cystic fibrosis
- imaging/CT MRI etc
- paediatric lung disaese
- respiratory measurement
- lung physiology
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