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J Pediatr. 2012 Mar;160(3):415-420.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.09.014. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Hyperventilation during exercise in very low birth weight school-age children may implicate inspiratory muscle weakness.

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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Arnaud de Villeneuve Hospital, University Hospital of Montpellier, F-34000 France.



To study the ventilatory response during exercise in 8- to 10-year-old children born in 1998 to 2000 with a birthweight <1500 g (very low birthweight [VLBW]).


We studied 19 VLBW children and 20 full-term children paired for age and sex. A physical activity questionnaire was administered. Lean body mass, spirometry, and maximal inspiratory pressure were assessed at rest. Gas exchange, breathing pattern, and the tension-time index of the inspiratory muscles, a noninvasive indicator of inspiratory muscle effort, were evaluated during a continuous incremental cycling protocol.


VLBW children had lower weight, height, lean body mass, and maximal inspiratory pressure than control subjects. Their physical activity level was not different. During exercise, they had a higher respiratory rate and minute ventilation for the same metabolic level (VCO(2)/kg) and a higher tension-time index of the inspiratory muscles for the same exercise level (percentage of maximal oxygen consumption).


The lower inspiratory muscle strength observed in school-age VLBW children resulted in a higher inspiratory effort during incremental exercise. The rapid but not shallow breathing pattern adopted by this population during exercise may have been in response to their lower inspiratory muscle resistance to fatigue. VLBW children complaining of dyspnea should be investigated with exercise testing.

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