Predicting hypoxaemia during flights in children with cystic fibrosis

Buchdahl, R. M.; Babiker, A.; Bush, A.; Cramer, D.
November 2001
Thorax;Nov2001, Vol. 56 Issue 11, p877
Academic Journal
journal article
Background: We have previously suggested that it is possible to predict oxygen desaturation during flight in children with cystic fibrosis and chronic lung disease by non-invasive measurement of oxygen saturation following inhalation of 15% oxygen--the pre-flight hypoxic challenge. This study reports on the results of measurements over 5 years. Methods: The study comprised a pre-flight hypoxic challenge measuring oxygen saturation by finger tip pulse oximetry (SpO(2)) during tidal breathing of 15% oxygen in nitrogen and spirometric testing 1 month before the flight followed by SpO(2) measurements during intercontinental flights to and from holidays abroad with children in wake and sleep states. Results: Pre-flight tests were completed on 87 children with cystic fibrosis. Desaturation of <90% occurred in 10 children at some stage during the flight, three of whom received supplementary oxygen. Using a cut off SpO(2) of 90%, the pre-flight hypoxic challenge correctly predicted desaturation in only two of these children. The sensitivity and specificity of the pre-flight hypoxic challenge were 20% and 99%, respectively, compared with 70% and 96% for spirometric tests (using a cut off for forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) of <50% predicted). Overall, pre-flight spirometric tests were a better predictor of desaturation during flight with the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve of 0.89 compared with 0.73 for the hypoxic challenge test. Conclusions: In this group of subjects pre-flight spirometric testing was a better predictor of desaturation during flight than the pre-flight hypoxic challenge.


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