Introduction: Adult spirometry following community-acquired childhood pneumonia has variably been reported as showing obstructive or non-obstructive deficits. We analysed associations between doctor-diagnosed childhood pneumonia/pleurisy and more comprehensive lung function in a middle-aged general population cohort born in 1961.
Methods: Data were from the prospective population-based Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study cohort. Analysed lung function was from ages 7 years (prebronchodilator spirometry only, n=7097), 45 years (postbronchodilator spirometry, carbon monoxide transfer factor and static lung volumes, n=1220) and 53 years (postbronchodilator spirometry and transfer factor, n=2485). Parent-recalled histories of doctor-diagnosed childhood pneumonia and/or pleurisy were recorded at age 7. Multivariable linear and logistic regression were used.
Results: At age 7, compared with no episodes, childhood pneumonia/pleurisy-ever was associated with reduced FEV1:FVC for only those with current asthma (beta-coefficient or change in z-score=-0.20 SD, 95% CI-0.38 to-0.02, p=0.028, p interaction=0.036). At age 45, for all participants, childhood pneumonia/pleurisy-ever was associated with a restrictive pattern: OR 3.02 (1.5 to 6.0), p=0.002 for spirometric restriction (FVC less than the lower limit of normal plus FEV1:FVC greater than the lower limit of normal); total lung capacity z-score-0.26 SD (95% CI-0.38 to-0.13), p<0.001; functional residual capacity-0.16 SD (-0.34 to-0.08), p=0.001; and residual volume-0.18 SD (-0.31 to-0.05), p=0.008. Reduced lung volumes were accompanied by increased carbon monoxide transfer coefficient at both time points (z-score +0.29 SD (0.11 to 0.49), p=0.001 and +0.17 SD (0.04 to 0.29), p=0.008, respectively).
Discussion: For this community-based population, doctor-diagnosed childhood pneumonia and/or pleurisy were associated with obstructed lung function at age 7 for children who had current asthma symptoms, but with evidence of 'smaller lungs' when in middle age.