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Clinical implications of airway obstruction with normal or low FEV 1 in childhood and adolescence.

Thorax 2024 March 22
BACKGROUND: Airway obstruction is defined by spirometry as a low forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1 ) to forced vital capacity (FVC) ratio. This impaired ratio may originate from a low FEV1 (classic) or a normal FEV1 in combination with a large FVC (dysanaptic). The clinical implications of dysanaptic obstruction during childhood and adolescence in the general population remain unclear.

AIMS: To investigate the association between airway obstruction with a low or normal FEV1 in childhood and adolescence, and asthma, wheezing and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR).

METHODS: In the BAMSE (Barn/Child, Allergy, Milieu, Stockholm, Epidemiology; Sweden) and PIAMA (Prevention and Incidence of Asthma and Mite Allergy; the Netherlands) birth cohorts, obstruction (FEV1 :FVC ratio less than the lower limit of normal, LLN) at ages 8, 12 (PIAMA only) or 16 years was classified as classic (FEV1 <LLN) or dysanaptic (FEV1 ≥LLN) obstruction. Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between these two types of obstruction and respiratory health outcomes were estimated by cohort-adjusted logistic regression on pooled data.

RESULTS: The prevalence of classic obstruction at ages 8, 12 and 16 in the two cohorts was 1.5%, 1.1% and 1.5%, respectively. Dysanaptic obstruction was slightly more prevalent: 3.9%, 2.5% and 4.6%, respectively. Obstruction, regardless of FEV1 , was consistently associated with higher odds of asthma (dysanaptic obstruction: OR 2.29, 95% CI 1.40 to 3.74), wheezing, asthma medication use and BHR compared with the normal lung function group. Approximately one-third of the subjects with dysanaptic obstruction in childhood remained dysanaptic during adolescence.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Children and adolescents with airway obstruction had, regardless of their FEV1 level, a higher prevalence of asthma and wheezing. Follow-up and treatment at these ages should be guided by the presence of airway obstruction.

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