Upper Airway Pathology Contributes to Respiratory Symptoms in Children Born Very Preterm.

Simpson SJ; Champion Z; Hall GL; French N; Reynolds V;

The Journal Of Pediatrics [J Pediatr] 2019 Aug 08. Date of Electronic Publication: 2019 Aug 08.

Objective: To evaluate the role of upper airway dysfunction, indicated by altered vocal quality (dysphonia), on the respiratory symptoms of children surviving very preterm birth.
Study Design: Children born <32 weeks of gestation participated in 2 separate assessments during midchildhood. The first visit assessed voice quality by a subjective evaluation using the Consensus Auditory-Perceptual Evaluation of Voice and a computerized analysis of the properties of the voice via the Acoustic Voice Quality Index. The second assessment recorded parentally reported respiratory symptoms and measures of lung function, including spirometry, lung volumes, oscillatory mechanics, and a cardiopulmonary exercise test.
Results: Preterm children (n = 35; median gestation 24.3 weeks) underwent paired voice and lung assessments at approximately 11 years of age. Preterm children with dysphonia (n = 25) reported significantly more respiratory symptoms than those with normal voices (n = 10) including wheeze (92% vs 40%; P = .001) and asthma diagnosed by a physician (60% vs 10%; P = .007). Lung function outcomes were generally not different between the dysphonic group and the group with normal voice (P > .05), except for the oscillatory mechanics measures, which were all at least 0.5 z score lower in the dysphonic group (Xrs8 mean difference = -0.91 z scores, P = .003; fres = 1.06 z scores, P = .019; AX = -0.87 z scores, P = .010; Rrs8 = 0.63 z scores, P = .068).
Conclusions: The upper airway may play a role in the respiratory symptoms experienced by some very preterm children and should be considered by clinicians, especially when symptoms are in the presence of normal lung function and are refractory to treatment.