Backround and aims Adolescents born at very low birth weight (< 1500g, VLBW) have higher rates of respiratory symptoms and reduced lung function as compared with those born at term. Only few studies, however, have extended to adult life. We studied the association of preterm birth at VLBW with lung function in young adults.
Methods We used spirometry (Medikro®) to measure pulmonary function in 160 VLBW subjects and in 162 term-born controls (mean age 22.5 years) as a part of the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults. BPD was diagnosed by a clinician based on Northway’s criteria.
Results Figure 1 shows the mean values and differences in lung function tests between the groups. Forced expired volume in 1 second (FEV1), the FEV1/FVC (forced vital capacity) ratio, peak expiratory flow (PEF), maximal expiratory flow at 25% or 50% (MEF25% and 50%) were lower in adults born at VLBW than in those born at term. This finding was strongest in VLBW adults with a history of BPD but was present also in VLBW adults with no history of BPD.
The mean difference in lung function test.
Conclusions Reduced FEV1/FVC, PEF and MEF25–50% suggest a medium and small airway obstruction among young adults born at VLBW. While this finding is strongest among BPD survivors, it is present also among VLBW adults with no history of BPD. This may be a risk factor for later obstructive pulmonary disease.