Bronchiolitis tied to respiratory morbidity that persists into young adulthood

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April 12, 2022

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Long-term outcomes of bronchiolitis in infancy include a higher prevalence of asthma and more obstructive lung function patterns in young adulthood, researchers reported in BMJ Open Respiratory Research.

“Knowledge regarding long-term respiratory morbidity in adults with former bronchiolitis is limited, but a few small studies have reported a sustained increased risk of asthma and lower lung function,” Karen Galta Sørensen, PhD candidate in the department of pediatrics at Stavanger University Hospital, Norway, and the department of clinical science at the University of Bergen, Norway, and colleagues wrote.

Data were derived from Sørensen KG, et al. BMJ Open Respir Res. 2022;doi:10.1136/bmjresp-2021-001095.

The cohort study enrolled 225 young adults in Norway (median age, 19.4 years; 52% men) who were hospitalized for bronchiolitis in infancy from October 1996 to May 2001. Participants were matched with 167 controls (median age, 19.2 years; 49.1% men ). During follow-up, all participants responded to questionnaires regarding asthma and lung function and atopy examinations.

The prevalence of asthma was higher among participants who had been hospitalized with bronchiolitis in infancy compared with the controls (25.1% vs. 13.1%). However, those who had been hospitalized with bronchiolitis did not have more frequent atopy compared with controls (44.3% vs. 48.2%).

The researchers reported no difference in the prevalence of asthma ever between participants who had respiratory syncytial virus and those without (24% vs. 23.8%). In addition, researchers observed no difference in the prevalence of asthma ever between participants who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis and those who were not, both among men and women (34.8% vs. 22.7%).

Participants who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis also had lower FEV1 (–0.39 vs. -0.08), FEV1/FVC (–0.71 vs. -0.31) and forced expiratory flow 25% to 75% of FVC (–0.73 vs. -0.33) compared with controls.

According to the researchers, these findings correlate with previous research that demonstrated nearly one-quarter of patients who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis had current respiratory asthma at age 11 years, which highlights that infantile bronchiolitis was associated with long-term morbidity during both childhood and throughout young adulthood.

“The study confirms that bronchiolitis in infancy is associated with impaired respiratory health persisting into young adulthood,” the researchers wrote. “Further follow-up studies in adult age are needed to explore the potential for subsequent respiratory morbidity including early-onset COPD after this prevalence of childhood disorder.”

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