Good News for Children's Lungs

Bronchiolitis hospitalization rates for children decreasing over a decade

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) Young children can become ill with a variety of respiratory infections. One common illness is bronchiolitis. The good news is that serious bronchiolitis rates may be going down.

A recent study found that fewer young children are being admitted to the hospital for bronchiolitis.

There was an increase in children who needed machines to help them breathe in the hospital. However, these children mostly already had high-risk health conditions.

The rate of children dying from bronchiolitis also decreased.

"See a pediatrician for your child's respiratory illness."

The study, led by Kohei Hasegawa, MD, MPH, of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, looked at the rates of hospitalizations for children for bronchiolitis.

Bronchiolitis is a respiratory infection in which the air passageways become clogged with mucus and swell up. It is usually caused by a virus.

The researchers used a national database to identify children under 2 years old who were hospitalized with bronchiolitis between 2000 and 2009.

The data included information on 544,828 cases of hospitalization for bronchiolitis in 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009.

These cases represented about 16 percent of all hospitalizations for kids under 2 during that time period.

Over almost a decade studied, the rates of hospitalization for bronchiolitis decreased.

In 2000, about 18 out of every 1,000 children under 2 were hospitalized for bronchiolitis each year.

By 2009, about 15 out of every 1,000 children under 2 were hospitalized for bronchiolitis each year.

This drop is a decrease of 17 percent in bronchiolitis hospitalizations for babies and young toddlers.

This decrease occurred primarily because of a drop in bronchiolitis among babies under 1 year old.

Bronchiolitis cases dropped 21 percent among infants but actually increased 13 percent for children between 1 and 2 years old.

Over this same time, the researchers found a similar decrease in pneumonia and asthma among children in these age groups. Those decreases could be related to the bronchiolitis decrease.

The researchers found an increase over the time studied in the use of mechanical ventilation for children.

Mechanical ventilation involves the use of a machine to help a child breathe who cannot breathe on his or her own.

While 1.9 percent of bronchiolitis cases in 2000 required mechanical ventilation, 2.3 percent of the cases needed it in 2009.

However, the researchers found an increase in the number of children admitted with high-risk medical conditions, and this increase appeared to account for the increase in use of mechanical ventilation.

The researchers also looked at the survival rates for the children admitted.

When they considered all the factors that could influence survival rates (such as high-risk conditions and demographic factors), they found that death rates decreased among children.

For example, the rate of death in children under 1 year old who did not have a high-risk health condition and were admitted to the hospital for bronchiolitis went down 25 percent.

The study was published June 3 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was funded by St. Luke's Life Science Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 2, 2013
Last Updated:
August 8, 2013