Airway Monitoring for Cystic Fibrosis in Children

Children with cystic fibrosis have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections in their lungs and sinuses, because mucus blocks these airways. From early childhood to adulthood, pulmonologists at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone regularly perform a variety of tests to assess lung function and to monitor infections, so they can be treated before they become serious.

Lung Function Testing

Lung function tests, performed each time your child visits the doctor, measure how much and how quickly air is inhaled and exhaled from the lungs. The doctor may administer this test after giving your child a dose of albuterol, a medication that opens up the airways. This can help to determine if there is a blockage in the lungs that can be treated with medication.

Other lung tests measure the amount of oxygen in the lungs and in the blood, which is an additional way to see if mucus in the airways is interfering with breathing and the absorption of oxygen.

Sputum Culture

Children with more advanced cystic fibrosis are often susceptible to infection with a certain type of bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can increase inflammation in the airways and worsen lung function. Doctors at our Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Center regularly test mucus from the upper airway for the presence of this bacterium. If Pseudomonas is found, our doctors prescribe inhaled antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and improve lung function.

Chest and Sinus X-rays

Many children with cystic fibrosis have a chronic cough. If the cough worsens, or the child develops other symptoms, such as an increase in mucus or shortness of breath, an NYU Langone pulmonologist may order a chest X-ray to look for signs of inflammation, infection, and other complications. Sinus X-rays may be used to diagnose sinusitis, another common complication of cystic fibrosis in which the sinuses are repeatedly infected with bacteria.

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