Background: Hospitalized bronchiolitis imposes a significant burden among infants, particularly among Indigenous children. Traditional or known risk factors for severe disease are well described, but there are limited data on risks for prolonged hospitalization and persistent symptoms. Our aims were to determine factors (clinical and microbiological) associated with (i) prolonged length of stay (LOS); (ii) persistent respiratory symptoms at 3 weeks; (iii) bronchiectasis up to 24 months post-hospitalisation; and (iv) risk of respiratory readmissions within 6 months.
Methods: Indigenous infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis were enrolled at Royal Darwin Hospital between 2008 and 2013. Standardized forms were used to record clinical data. A nasopharyngeal swab was collected at enrolment to identify respiratory viruses and bacteria.
Results: The median age of 232 infants was 5 months (interquartile range 3-9); 65% male. On multivariate regression, our 12 point severity score (including accessory muscle use) was the only factor associated with prolonged LOS but the effect was modest (+3.0 hr per point, 95%CI: 0.7, 5.1, P = 0.01). Presence of cough at 3 weeks increased the odds of bronchiectasis (OR 3.0, 95%CI: 1.1, 7.0, P = 0.03). Factors associated with respiratory readmissions were: previous respiratory hospitalization (OR 2.3, 95%CI: 1.0, 5.4, P = 0.05) and household smoke (OR 2.6, 95%CI: 1.0, 6.3, P = 0.04).
Conclusion: Increased severity score is associated with prolonged LOS in Indigenous children hospitalized with bronchiolitis. As persistent symptoms at 3 weeks post-hospitalization are associated with future diagnosis of bronchiectasis, optimising clinical care beyond hospitalization is needed to improve long-term respiratory outcomes for infants at risk of respiratory disease.