Preflight hypoxia challenge testing (HCT) in a body plethysmograph has previously been done only on infants >3 months of corrected gestational age (CGA). This study aims to determine the earliest fit-to-fly age by testing neonates <1 week old.
A prospective observational study was carried out on 3 groups of infants: healthy term infants ≤7 days old, preterm infants (≥34 weeks CGA) 2 to 3 days before discharge, and preterm infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). HCT was conducted using a body plethysmograph with a 15% fraction of inspired oxygen. The oxygen saturation (Spo2) test fail point was <85%.
Twenty-four term (mean CGA 40 weeks), 62 preterm (37 weeks), and 23 preterm with BPD (39.5 weeks) infants were tested. One term infant (4.2%) and 12 preterm infants without BPD (19.4%) failed. Sixteen (69.3%) preterm infants with BPD failed (P < .001), with a median drop in Spo2 of 16%. At 39 weeks CGA, neither preterm infants without BPD nor term infants had an Spo2 <85%. However, 7 of 12 term infants with BPD failed the HCT.
Term and preterm infants without BPD born at >39 weeks CGA do not appear to be likely to desaturate during a preflight HCT and so can be deemed fit to fly according to current British Thoracic Society Guidelines.