It has always been difficult to diagnose asthma in pre-school children because symptoms in this age group differ greatly from child to child and until now there was no tool which could be used as a standard for healthy or ‘normal’ lung function. To tackle this issue, Dr Sanja Stanojevic and colleagues at the ICH have produced standardized growth charts for lung function in young children. This will provide a measure for what normal lung development should look like. Doctors can also use the charts to monitor the effects of any medicines they prescribe.
Dr Stanojevic explains, “We hope that this diagnostic “gold standard” will soon be incorporated into commonly used lung function equipment so that researchers and doctors worldwide can use them to improve diagnosis and treatment of preschool children. We believe this tool will help to ensure children enjoy a better quality of life with fewer and less traumatic attacks.”
Researchers collected data on lung function from over 10,000 young children spread across 11 countries and four continents. They recorded the methods, equipment and quality control that had been used, together with information on the child’s age, sex and body size, all of which influence lung function. They also conducted site visits to identify any differences in the way in which lung function tests were performed which might influence the interpretation of results. They then used these findings to characterise normal lung growth and development in order to develop the growth charts for lung function. These charts focus on young children aged 3-7 years, linking up with the measurements for older children which were already in use and enabling comparisons right through to adulthood.
The Asthma UK Growth Chart initiative has drawn tremendous international support. Preliminary results suggest that charts will fundamentally improve the management of respiratory diseases in children and they have already been adopted in several hospital departments.
Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK says, “This exciting new tool will improve accuracy of asthma diagnosis in pre-school children allowing doctors to intervene with treatments much earlier. Receiving targeted treatment at an early stage could limit the severity of symptoms later on, making a massive difference to these children’s quality of life.”
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Notes to editors:
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.
With the UCL Institute of Child Health, we are the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and play a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.
Our charity needs to raise £50 million every year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research. With your help we provide world class care to our very ill children and their families.