Lung clearance index (LCI) is accepted as an early marker of lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF), however the utility of LCI to identify subgroups of CF disease in the paediatric age group has never been explored. The aim of the study was to characterize phenotypes of children with CF using LCI as a marker of ventilation inhomogeneity and to investigate whether these phenotypes distinguished patients based on time to pulmonary exacerbation (PE).
Data were collected on patients with CF aged < 18 years old, attending the CF Center of Milan during outpatient follow-up visits between October 2014 and September 2019. Cluster analysis using agglomerative nesting hierarchical method was performed to generate distinct phenotypes. Time-to-recurrent event analysis investigated association of phenotypes with PE.
We collected 313 multiple breath washout tests on 125 children aged 5.5-16.8 years. Cluster analysis identified two divergent phenotypes in children and adolescents of same age, presenting with almost normal FEV but with substantial difference in markers of ventilation inhomogeneity (mean LCI difference of 3.4, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 2.6-4.2). A less severe phenotype was associated with a lower risk of PE relapse (Hazard Ratio 0.45, 95% CI 0.34-0.62).
LCI is useful in clinical practice to characterize distinct phenotypes of children and adolescents with mild/normal FEV. A less severe phenotype translates into a lower risk of PE relapse.

© 2022. The Author(s).