Sex-related differences in pulmonary physiologic outcome measures in a high-risk birth cohort

Published:February 09, 2015DOI:


      Sex influences the risk of wheezing illnesses and the prevalence of asthma throughout childhood.


      To better understand the mechanisms of these effects, we analyzed longitudinal relationships between sex, lung physiology, and asthma in the Childhood Origins of ASThma birth cohort study.


      Childhood Origins of ASThma birth cohort study children were followed prospectively from birth and assessed annually. Results of spirometry, fractional exhaled nitric oxide (Feno), mannitol provocation testing, and 3He gas magnetic resonance imaging were assessed by sex using multivariate models including age, asthma diagnosis, and wheezing histories.


      Girls had higher prebronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 0.5 seconds/forced vital capacity values than did boys (mean difference, 0.017; 95% CI, 0.000-0.034; P = .05) of equivalent age. Postbronchodilator findings were more pronounced, with boys demonstrating reduced forced expiratory volume in 0.5 seconds/forced vital capacity values than did girls of equivalent age (mean difference, 0.032; 95% CI, 0.014-0.049; P = .0005). Conversely, girls were noted to have higher ventilation defects on 3He magnetic resonance imaging than did boys (P = .01). No differences were noted in the rate of positive responses to mannitol provocation or Feno measurements.


      Lower airflow values are present by spirometry for prepubertal boys than for age-matched girls; however, greater 3He ventilation defects were noted in girls. This could represent a greater degree of subclinical air trapping in prepubertal girls because residual volumes are not detected on standard spirometric readings. No differences were noted between the 2 sexes with airway hyperresponsiveness (mannitol provocation testing) or inflammation (Feno). Prospective peripubertal follow-up will determine whether these differences persist or change with the de novo expression and remission of asthma based on sex and age.

      Key words

      Abbreviations used:

      COAST (Childhood Origins of ASThma), Feno (Fractional exhaled nitric oxide), FEV0.5 (Forced expiratory volume in 0.5 seconds), FVC (Forced vital capacity), MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)
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