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Original Research: Pulmonary Physiology |

Forced Oscillation Technique in Spinal Muscular AtrophyForced Oscillation Technique FREE TO VIEW

Leanne M. Gauld, MD; Lucy A. Keeling, BExSc; Claire E. Shackleton, BSc(Hons); Peter D. Sly, PhD
Author and Funding Information

From the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute (Drs Gauld and Sly and Mss Keeling and Shackleton); and Royal Children’s Hospital Brisbane (Drs Gauld and Sly), The State of Queensland (Queensland Health), Herston, QLD, Australia.

CORRESPONDENCE TO: Leanne M. Gauld, MD, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Children’s Hospital, Herston Rd, Herston, QLD, 4006, Australia; e-mail: Leanne.Gauld@health.qld.gov.au


Part of this article has been presented in abstract form (Gauld L, Keeling L, Sly P, Shackleton C. Eur Respir J. 2013;42(suppl 57):227S).

FUNDING/SUPPORT: The research was supported by the ANZ Queensland Community Foundation–the Catherine Hannay Estate.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2014;146(3):795-803. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0166
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BACKGROUND:  Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) causes respiratory compromise that is difficult to assess in young children. The forced oscillation technique (FOT) is commercially available for children as young as 2 years of age and is nonvolitional. The aim of this study was to assess the usefulness of FOT in young children with SMA.

METHODS:  Children with SMA aged < 10 years were recruited. FOT was performed every 3 months for 12 months (five visits). Spirometry and assisted and unassisted peak cough flow (PCF) were performed where possible. Polysomnography was performed on children with type 2 SMA. Clinical information included SMA type, chest infections, Cobb angle, medications, and mobility. Regression analysis assessed relationships between FOT and FVC, PCF, and apnea/hypopnea index (AHI). Analysis of variance sought relationships to clinical characteristics.

RESULTS:  Twelve children (seven male) were recruited; mean age was 6.26 (± 2.59) years. Respiratory reactance at 8 Hz (Xrs8) (mean z score, +1.41; SD, 1.90; P < .03) and respiratory resistance at 8 Hz (Rrs8) (mean z score, +0.66; SD, 1.34; P = .12) were abnormal. Four children performed spirometry. Linear relationships to Xrs8 exist: FVC (R2, 0.54), unassisted PCF (R2, 0.33), assisted PCF (R2, 0.43), and AHI (R2, 0.32). Over 12 months, Xrs8z score worsened (rate of change of +1.08, P < .001) and Rrs8z score worsened (rate of change +0.51, P < .001). No relationship (P > .05) was found between clinical characteristics and FOT values.

CONCLUSIONS:  FOT is feasible in young children with SMA, with abnormal values of reactance and resistance on grouped data, worsening over 12 months. Xrs8 is related to respiratory tests used to monitor progress in SMA (FVC, PCF, AHI). Further research on the value of FOT in managing individuals is warranted.

Figures in this Article

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal-recessive neuromuscular disease affecting 12 to 60 per million live births.1,2 It is classified by age of diagnosis, clinical characteristics, and expected course.3 Typically, type 1 is diagnosed at < 6 months, and death occurs at < 18 months of age. Type 2 is diagnosed at 6 to 18 months and sit, but do not walk; death occurs at > 2 years of age. Type 3 is diagnosed at > 18 months and walk; death occurs in adulthood.3,4

In SMA, progressive weakness affects intercostals with relative diaphragm sparing.3,5,6 Progressive inspiratory and expiratory muscle weakness with reduced lung and chest wall compliance causes alveolar hypoventilation and reduced cough efficacy. Children typically have a barrel chest and use abdominal muscles to assist breathing.6 Bulbar dysfunction develops. Progressive scoliosis is common, worsening respiratory restriction.7,8 Children develop recurrent chest infections or aspiration, and respiratory failure ensues, initially during sleep, leading to death.911

Objective respiratory measures such as vital capacity, maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures, sniff nasal inspiratory pressures, and inspiratory vital capacity are useful in monitoring progress, timing polysomnography, and assessing risk for chest infection admission in neuromuscular disease.2,5,6,12 However, most require concentration, cooperation, and performance of complex respiratory maneuvers. Acceptable and repeatable tests are rarely feasible in children < 6 years old.1315 In SMA, respiratory function is often impaired by this age. In Duchenne muscular dystrophy, peak cough flow (PCF) > 160 L/min is required for effective airway clearance; below this, admissions with chest infections occur.12 There are no published reference values for young children. Polysomnography assesses sleep breathing but is labor intensive.10,11 Alternative objective respiratory assessments are essential.

The forced oscillation technique (FOT) is a commercially available respiratory test requiring only tidal breathing.14 Reference values exist for children ≥ 2 years.16 Its usefulness in neuromuscular disease has not been assessed. There is a need for objective, noninvasive, nonvolitional respiratory measurements useful in young children with neuromuscular disorders, such as SMA. This study aimed to assess feasibility and clinical relevance of FOT in young children with SMA.

Subjects

All children with SMA known to the Neuromuscular Service of the Royal Children’s Hospital Brisbane aged < 10 years were invited to participate. Children were identified by searching the comprehensive Queensland Pediatric Neuromuscular Service database (Queensland population, 4.5 million; 900,000 children < 15 years).17 Additionally, one child from New South Wales learned of the research through social media and requested inclusion. No child included in the study had a tracheostomy.

Research Design

Recruited children underwent assessment for diagnosis and clinical characteristics by a pediatrician. Polysomnography was organized for subjects no longer walking. Those using nocturnal noninvasive ventilation (NIV) had a titration rather than a diagnostic study. Children had visits every 3 months for 12 months (baseline and four quarterly visits), during which anthropometric measurements, FOT, spirometry, and PCF measurements were performed where able. Children were well at the times of testing. Where children were not able to perform FOT, they were given the opportunity to try again every 3 months for a 12-month period.

Clinical Characteristics and Anthropometric Measurements

Baseline data included age, sex, genotype, SMA type,3 mobility, chest infection and medication history. A spinal series was performed, and maximum Cobb angle recorded.18 Ulna length measurements (millimeters) determined standing height, as only three children could stand.19

Pulmonary Function Tests
Forced Oscillation Technique:

The method of respiratory impedance measurement has previously been described.16,20 Briefly, children were seated with the head in a neutral position, connected to the oscillation device via a mouthpiece with bacterial filter (SureGard; Bird Healthcare) and noseclip in place. Cheeks and lower jaw were supported. Measurements were obtained using a commercially available device (12M; Chess Medical, marketed by Cosmed) according to the American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society guidelines.14 Pseudo-random noise forcing, signal containing, integer-multiple frequencies between 4 Hz and 48 Hz were applied. Equipment was calibrated daily using known resistance.

Children were instructed to breathe normally. A minimum of three and a maximum of 12 acceptable measurements were obtained. Individual measurements were excluded if there was mouth leak, mouth movement, swallowing, glottis closure, or audible noise. Measurements were examined post hoc for evidence of inadequate measurement quality at specific frequencies. Measurement quality was acceptable if the coherence function at an individual frequency was ≥ 0.95; measurements where at least three individual frequencies had a coherence < 0.95 were excluded.21 Variables recorded were respiratory resistance (Rrs) and reactance (Xrs) at 6, 8, and 10 Hz (Rrs6, Rrs8, Rrs10 and Xrs6, Xrs8, Xrs10) and average resistance (Rrs4-24).20 Predicted values and z scores were calculated from height, using reference data.16,20

Spirometry:

All children able to reasonably understand instructions attempted spirometry. FVC and FEV1 were measured with the Sensormedics Vmax 20C Encore System (CareFusion Corp) in the seated position with a noseclip and bacterial filter (SureGard; Bird Healthcare). A minimum of three satisfactory recordings were required according the accepted criteria of the American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society.22 Predicted values and z scores were calculated.23

Peak Cough Flow:

PCFs were recorded seated with a noseclip and a bacterial filter (SureGard; Bird Healthcare) by a mass flow sensor (Sensormedics Vmax 20C Encore System; CareFusion Corp). For the assisted PCF, a trained person assisted the cough with a timed bilateral chest wall compression in conjunction with the child’s cough. A minimum of three and a maximum of five coughs were performed and the highest value recorded.

Polysomnography:

Polysomnography was performed (Embla 2.0; Flaga Medical Devices), including transcutaneous partial pressure of CO2 (Tcco2). Sleep stages and respiratory events were scored manually using standard American Academy of Sleep Medicine criteria.24 In brief, apneas and hypopneas lasted at least two respiratory cycles and were accompanied by a fall in oxygen saturation of > 3% or an arousal > 3 s. An apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) was calculated as the overall number of events per hour. Hypoventilation was defined as Tcco2 > 55 mm Hg.

Data Analysis

The paired t test compared measured and predicted FOT values. Regression analysis assessed relationships between FVC, PCF, and AHI to FOT. Pearson correlation assessed relationships between spirometry and FOT z scores. Relationships between clinical and polysomnography data and FOT measurements were sought using analysis of variance and regression analysis. For longitudinal data, a rate of change was calculated. Stata version 11 (StataCorp LP) was used. Significance was accepted at .05.

Ethical Considerations

The study was conducted in accordance with the amended Declaration of Helsinki. The project and written informed consent were approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Royal Children’s Hospital (HREC/11/QRCH/22) and University of Queensland (2012000102).

Nineteen children aged < 10 years with SMA were identified, and 13 were recruited (Fig 1). One child with SMA type 2 (subject 8) died following initial assessment. One child failed to attend the final visit. Follow-up was complete on all others. Baseline characteristics are summarized in Table 1.

Figure Jump LinkFigure 1  Flow diagram of recruited children. FOT = forced oscillation technique; NSW = New South Wales; SMA = spinal muscular atrophy.Grahic Jump Location
Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 1  ] Clinical Characteristics of Recruited Subjects

AHI = apnea/hypopnea index; F = female; M = male; NGT = nasogastric tube; NIV = noninvasive ventilation; PEG = percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy; PSG = polysomnography; SMA = spinal muscular atrophy; SMN = survival motor neuron; Tcco2 = transcutaneous partial pressure of CO2.

In young children with SMA, FOT is feasible. Acceptable FOT was obtained in 12 children (seven boys) (mean age, 6.26 [± 2.59] years). One child aged 2 years was unable to perform the test. Respiratory tests are summarized in Table 2. Reactance z scores were significantly abnormal (Xrs8 mean z score, +1.41; SD, 1.90; P < .03). Resistance z scores tended to be positive compared with normal, but this only reached statistical significance for Rrs10 (mean z score, +1.13; SD, 0.88; P < .001). Five children (42%) had an Xrs8z score > +1.64 (95th percentile), and four children (33%) had a Rrs8z score > +1.64. Although Xrs8 tended to be more abnormal in children with type 2 than type 3 SMA, this did not reach statistical significance.

Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 2  ] Pulmonary Function Test Results, Visit 1

FOT = forced oscillation technique; Rrs = respiratory resistance; Xrs = respiratory reactance.

Longitudinal measurements are summarized in Figure 2. Over 12 months, Xrs8z score worsened (rate of change of +1.08 z score per annum, P < .001) and Rrs8z score worsened (+0.51 z scores per annum, P < .04) (Table 3). Rate of change of spirometry was not undertaken due to small numbers with repeat measurements (n = 3).

Figure Jump LinkFigure 2  Longitudinal measurements for Rrs8 and Xrs8 over 12 mo. The child who died soon after her first visit is shown with open symbols. Rrs = respiratory resistance; Xrs = respiratory reactance.Grahic Jump Location
Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 3  ] Overall Rate of Change in FOT Values Over 12 Mo

See Table 2 legend for expansion of abbreviations.

Six children were aged > 6 years, and five performed spirometry at least once: four with SMA type 2 and one with SMA type 3, who had normal spirometry for age. Mean (SD) and predicted values are summarized in Table 2.

A linear relationship occurs between Xrs8 and FVC (R2, 0.54), % FVC (R2, 0.50), FVC z score (R2, 0.64), FEV1 (R2, 0.35), % FEV1 (R2, 0.50), FEV1z score (R2, 0.51), unassisted PCF (R2, 0.33), and assisted PCF (R2, 0.43) (Fig 3). There is a significant correlation between FVC z score and Xrs z score at 6 Hz and 8 Hz (−0.72, P < .02; −0.69, P < .02, respectively). Similarly, there is a significant correlation between FEV1z score and Xrs z score at 6 Hz and 8 Hz (−0.63, P < .04; −0.60, P < .05, respectively). There is no significant correlation between spirometry z scores and Rrs values at 6 Hz, 8 Hz, or 10 Hz. There is a weak linear relationship between AHI and Xrs8 (R2, 0.32) and Rrs8 (R2, 0.27) for the eight children in whom a polysomnography was undertaken, although three were using NIV and numbers are small.

Figure Jump LinkFigure 3  A-C, Xrs8 has a linear relationship to (A) FVC ( R2, 0.54), (B) unassisted peak cough flow ( R2, 0.33), and (C) assisted peak cough flow ( R2, 0.43). See Figure 2 legend for expansion of abbreviation.Grahic Jump Location

No significant relationship (P > .05) was found between clinical characteristics (sex, SMA type, mobility, medication use, previous spinal surgery, nocturnal NIV) and FOT. There was no relationship between Cobb angle and resistance (R2, 0.03-0.17) or reactance (R2, 0.008-0.06) or chest infection history and resistance (R2, 0.005-0.13) or reactance (R2, 0.001-0.04).

In young children with neuromuscular weakness, FOT is feasible, as shown in this group with SMA; only one child (age 2 years) was unable to perform the test. Nonvolitional and noninvasive tests are readily performed in young children. Sniff nasal inspiratory pressure is feasible in children > 6 years of age with SMA and reference values exist > 6 years.2,25 Spirometry generally becomes reliable and repeatable > 6 years.22 Many children with SMA have abnormal respiratory function by this age, and objective monitoring in younger children would enhance assessment. Mean FOT values were abnormal with values being > 95th percentile for reactance in 42% and resistance in 33%.

Reactance measures elasticity (relationship between pressure and volume) and inertive properties (relationship between pressure and volume acceleration) of the lung.14 With a stiff chest wall and reduced lung volumes, it is expected to be reduced and worsen over time. In this study, it was significantly increased compared with normal (more elastic), and increased further over 12 months (+1.08 z scores). Resistance mainly measures viscous resistance in large airways and, to a lesser extent, tissue resistance.14 In SMA, tissue compliance is reduced due to underinflation and microatelectasis.26,27 As compliance reduces, it is expected that tissue resistance and Rrs values increase over time, as has been found (+0.51 z scores per annum).

There is a wider spread of FOT values at the initial visit than subsequently. This likely represents a learning effect. As with many respiratory tests, there is a learning period required. Longitudinal assessments and other clinical markers are important in overall assessment of individuals. Inclusion of a control group may have better characterized the learning effect.

Several groups have assessed the rate of change of FVC or % FVC, and results have varied.2,28,29 Two studies have grouped type 2 and 3 patients with SMA and included children and adults.28,29 The younger group28 had no change in FVC over 12 months. Younger children are expected to have an increase in FVC with growth, and no change in observed values would likely result in a reduction in predicted values. The older group29 had a fall in % FVC of 1.1% per annum. Khirani et al2 found a decline in % FVC of 9.8% per annum in type 2 and 4.2% in type 3. Patients in all three studies were older than the current group, and changes in respiratory function may differ in different age groups, due to the progressive nature of SMA. The current study has shown that resistance and reactance become more abnormal over 12 months. Numbers were too small to gain appreciation of differences in FOT between SMA types.

Although FOT provides an objective measure, it does not measure the same aspects of respiratory function as other tests. However, it is expected that a relationship exists between FOT and spirometry, as was found. There was a reasonable correlation between reactance and spirometry, although the relationship to resistance was not statistically significant.

PCF measures cough capacity. It is a volitional test that requires coughing into a mouthpiece. It is easily mastered by young children. Assisting the cough increases the PCF and is commonly used in conjunction with physiotherapy to aid airway clearance.30 It is expected the PCF will be more severely impaired in those with more severe weakness and that the reactance is lower in weaker children. A linear relationship was found between assisted and unassisted PCF and Xrs8, supporting the expected association.

No associations were seen between clinical characteristics and FOT. Respiratory tests are influenced by many factors including chest wall movement, lung parenchyma, and airway pathology. Likewise, the influence of clinical factors on the respiratory system is complex, and abnormalities in respiratory measurements may be multifactorial. Clinical factors are also multifaceted. History of chest infections, for instance, may be influenced by frequency of viral encounters, and scoliosis will have a different influence in the thoracic than lumber spine. Understandably, an association between clinical characteristics and FOT was not found. Large patient numbers may be required to better define these relationships.

In older children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, daytime markers for sleep-disordered breathing include respiratory function.31 Polysomnography can be prioritized to those with the highest likelihood of sleep-disordered breathing. There is no currently known association between respiratory function and need for NIV in SMA, although this has not been extensively researched, and FOT has only recently become available.32 Further investigation into the usefulness of FOT in predicting sleep-disordered breathing is required. It is encouraging that with a small sample, there is a relationship between FOT and AHI.

Predicted values of FOT are derived from standing height. Many children with SMA are unable to stand for accurate height measurement. Arm span has been used to predict height, but accurate measurement is difficult with spinal deformity or joint contractures. Ulna length measurement is straightforward, and accurate prediction equations exist for children ≥ 6 years of age.19 The prediction equations have been extrapolated to younger children in this study. This research group is currently undertaking further work to extend the ulna prediction equations to 1 year, and the tight linear relationship is maintained in younger children.33 It, hence, seems reasonable to use extrapolated equations. Reference data for FOT was developed for white children from a reference population within Australia and Italy. It is the most appropriate reference data available for FOT testing in Queensland.

The major study limitation is small patient numbers. SMA is uncommon. All patients known to have SMA in Queensland were identified. It is unlikely patients were missed, as the diagnosis is generally confirmed within the tertiary service, with follow-up by the neuromuscular service. Genuine efforts were made to include all identified children. Most not enrolling have disengaged from tertiary medical services, and the status of the three who could not be contacted is unknown. Further advancement of this work may be achieved by including additional centers in the future.

In conclusion, in young children with SMA, FOT is feasible, with abnormal values of resistance and reactance on grouped data. Xrs8 is related to respiratory tests used to monitor progress in SMA (FVC, PCF, and AHI). Further research on the value of FOT in managing individuals is warranted. Objective respiratory measurements in young children with SMA may be important in designing future clinical trials of disease-modifying treatments3438 and in clinical assessment in young children.

Author contributions: L. M. G. takes full responsibility for the integrity of the data and accuracy of data analysis and integrity of the submission as a whole. L. M. G. contributed to study design, approvals, grant application, recruitment, data analysis, and the writing and revision of the manuscript; L. A. K. and C. E. S. contributed substantially to data acquisition; P. D. S. contributed substantially to interpretation of data; and L. A. K., C. E. S., and P. D. S. contributed to the revision of the manuscript.

Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported to CHEST that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Role of sponsors: The sponsor had no role in the design of the study, the collection and analysis of the data, or the preparation of the manuscript.

AHI

apnea/hypopnea index

FOT

forced oscillation technique

NIV

noninvasive ventilation

PCF

peak cough flow

Rrs

respiratory resistance

SMA

spinal muscular atrophy

Tcco2

transcutaneous partial pressure of CO2

Xrs

respiratory reactance

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Figures

Figure Jump LinkFigure 1  Flow diagram of recruited children. FOT = forced oscillation technique; NSW = New South Wales; SMA = spinal muscular atrophy.Grahic Jump Location
Figure Jump LinkFigure 2  Longitudinal measurements for Rrs8 and Xrs8 over 12 mo. The child who died soon after her first visit is shown with open symbols. Rrs = respiratory resistance; Xrs = respiratory reactance.Grahic Jump Location
Figure Jump LinkFigure 3  A-C, Xrs8 has a linear relationship to (A) FVC ( R2, 0.54), (B) unassisted peak cough flow ( R2, 0.33), and (C) assisted peak cough flow ( R2, 0.43). See Figure 2 legend for expansion of abbreviation.Grahic Jump Location

Tables

Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 1  ] Clinical Characteristics of Recruited Subjects

AHI = apnea/hypopnea index; F = female; M = male; NGT = nasogastric tube; NIV = noninvasive ventilation; PEG = percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy; PSG = polysomnography; SMA = spinal muscular atrophy; SMN = survival motor neuron; Tcco2 = transcutaneous partial pressure of CO2.

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TABLE 2  ] Pulmonary Function Test Results, Visit 1

FOT = forced oscillation technique; Rrs = respiratory resistance; Xrs = respiratory reactance.

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TABLE 3  ] Overall Rate of Change in FOT Values Over 12 Mo

See Table 2 legend for expansion of abbreviations.

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