General Health and Development
This section carries out a basic check of the children’s general health and development, then focuses on the breathing and blood pressure.
For the tests of breathing we use two simple tests. A spirometer, which measures how fast air flows in and out of the lungs, and a machine which makes a measure of any inflammation in the lung. During the spirometer test, it feels like being asked to blow out a lot of candles on a birthday cake (without the cake)! We then repeat this after asking the child to inhale a medicine to open up the airways to find out how well their lungs are working. During the second test we ask the child to breathe slowly into a machine to measure a gas (called nitric oxide) coming from the lungs. We also measure oxygen saturation, using a sensor placed over the tip of a finger. These tests are very simple to do and children have really enjoyed doing them in the past.
We will measure blood pressure as usual from a cuff around the arm. We then use a special ultrasound machine that can measure blood flow by placing a small soft sensor – the size of a pen – on the surface of the skin. To do this the child has to lay down on a couch or the floor for a few minutes while the measurements are made.
All the tests are supervised by an experienced nurse or doctor, and there should be no discomfort associated with them; children will not be asked to do anything that hurts. The information we get from the tests will be very helpful in understanding the effects of preterm birth on how the lungs and blood vessels develop.
If the tests show anything that may be a cause for concern we will tell parents, although this is unlikely as the tests we use are designed to measure how well the child is doing rather than to identify any problems.