Respiratory morbidity in central Australian Aboriginal children with alveolar lobar abnormalities

Anne B Chang, John P Masel, Naomi C Boyce and Paul J Torzillo
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (10): 490-494.


Objectives: To describe the short-term outcomes in Aboriginal children admitted to hospital with radiological alveolar lobar changes; and determine whether predischarge chest radiography can predict respiratory morbidity found at follow-up.

Design, participants, setting: Prospective cohort study of Aboriginal children admitted to Alice Springs Hospital between October 2000 and April 2001 with alveolar lobar abnormalities (area of consolidation, ≥ 1 cm) on chest radiographs. Participants were to have a predischarge radiograph and be followed up for 12 months.

Main outcome measures: Comorbidities, follow-up rate, and new respiratory disease found at follow-up.

Results: Of 113 children hospitalised with radiological alveolar lobar changes, 109 were Aboriginal. Their median age was 1.8 years (range, 0.2 months–13.3 years), and 124 episodes were recorded. Comorbidities were common in these children (anaemia, 51.5%; suppurative otitis media, 37.3%). The follow-up rate one year after admission was 83.1% of episodes. New treatable chronic respiratory morbidity was found in 20 (25.6%) of the 78 children with completed follow-up. Predischarge chest radiographs were predictive of all chronic respiratory morbidity when they showed no or minimal resolution (0–20% resolution) (relative risk, 7.43; 95% CI, 2.07–26.60).

Conclusions: Central Australian Aboriginal children admitted to hospital with alveolar changes on chest radiographs have a substantial burden of chronic respiratory illness, and should be clinically followed up for early detection and management of chronic respiratory morbidity. A predischarge radiograph is useful, and patients whose radiograph shows no or minimal resolution should have a follow-up x-ray film.

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  • Anne B Chang1
  • John P Masel2
  • Naomi C Boyce3
  • Paul J Torzillo4

  • 1 Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 Flinders University, Northern Territory Clinical School, Alice Springs, NT.
  • 3 Royal Prince Alfred Medical Centre, Newtown, NSW.



The successful follow-up of these children was only possible through the dedication and assistance of Carmel Hattch and Jennie Thurley, to whom we are very grateful.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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