Research reveals new procedure for lung ailment diagnosis in children

Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK has been the setting for research into the methods used to diagnose lung ailments in children. The study has revealed that healthy children of different ethnicities have different lung capacities.

The research was carried out by the University College London Institute of Child Health (ICH) and the results of The Size and Lung Function in Children (SLIC) analysis will allow medical professionals to assess test results of the lung function of each child based on the criterion of their ethnicity. The decision can then be made to administer the best treatment that is applicable to each child.

The lung capacity of 1,600 children in the 5 to 11 age group and from 14 London primary schools was examined by the ICH research team. Mobile laboratories were used to test the children, taking into consideration how the air quality of large cities like London can have an impact on lung function. In order to carry out the testing the children were arranged into four groups according to their ethnicity. These were Black, White, South-Asian and Other/mixed ethnicities. It could be seen from the results produced that there was distinct evidence of contrasts in the lung capacity of the children, relevant to the size of their chest and indigenous background. This ground-breaking research will transform the methods used in the diagnosis of lung conditions and will be used to create guide charts on levels of lung growth. They will indicate the extent of normal lung capacity for children from different ethnic backgrounds, taking into account their age, gender and height including their shape and body size.

According to Janet Stocks, professor of respiratory psychology at the ICH, the differences in chest sizes was not previously taken into consideration, as lung function was based on the height and gender of the child. This meant that the same lung capacity would apply to all children of the same height. Professor Janet Stocks and senior research fellow at ICH, Dr. Sooky Lum, said that treatment only based on symptoms is sometimes insufficient. Tests on breathing provide essential information which can assist in improving the treatment. Although the normal measures for breathing tests are known in white children, no normal values are available for children such as those from South Asia and Africa. According to the researchers, a gold standard guide chart should enhance the diagnosis of lung disease, bearing in mind the effects of environmental pollution on lung health and also the social and economic circumstances of the child.

The researchers commented further by saying that many respiratory diseases, including asthma, materialise in early childhood and if they can be discovered and treated timeously before permanent lung damage is done, lung health could be encouraged throughout life. This research would also assist children who may be prescribed unnecessary medication for mild respiratory symptoms.  Further testing by the researchers is to follow involving 2,200 pupils and 3,000 plus lung measurements. The researchers have an abundance of data to examine to find out which aspects relevant to body shape, size and composition can account for the disparities in lung function. This is so that adjustments for ethnic backgrounds will not be necessary in the future. The researchers also said that the gold card lung charts will require worldwide validation and include older age groups before they can be employed internationally. Nevertheless, it is expected that the charts will be applied within 2 to 3 years at the respiratory unit at GOSH.

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Harvey Uppal

4th September

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