Effects of Post-Prematurity Respiratory Disease on Lung Function Trajectory

Children with post-prematurity respiratory disease have worsening lung function throughout childhood.

Children with post-prematurity respiratory disease have worsening lung function throughout childhood, according to the results of a recent study published in the journal Respiratory Research.

Researchers examined lung function and neonatal history from an observational cohort of children born 32 weeks or earlier preterm at Boston Children’s Hospital. Associations were then examined between risk factors of lung function impairment.

Among the 164 children in the observational cohort, 54% were male and the median gestational age was 26 weeks. Among the cohort there were 264 studies from 82 patients with forced expiratory volumes in 1 second (FEV1) data, 138 studies from 47 patients with forced vital capacity (FVC) and FEV1/FVC data. It was determined that FEV1 and FEV1/FVC were lower than childhood norms. Furthermore, FVC outpaced FEV1, meaning that over time this difference increased. Longer duration of mechanical ventilation, postnatal steroid exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), maternal atopy, and asthma were associated with changes in lung function. 

“Neonatal risk factors including exposure to mechanical ventilation and postnatal steroids, as well as maternal atopy and asthma, were associated with diminished rate of rise in lung function,” the study authors wrote. These results may have implications for the trajectory of lung function in these children, putting them at risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life.  

Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Levin JC, Sheils CA, Gaffin JM, Hersh CP, Rhein LM, Hayden LP. Lung function trajectories in children with post-prematurity respiratory disease: identifying risk factors for abnormal growth. Respir Res. 2021;22(1):143. Published May 10, 2021. doi:10.1186/s12931-021-01720-0