PIFCO stands for ‘Preterm Infant Functional and Clinical Outcomes’. The study aims to recruit 550 very premature and extremely premature babies over the period Oct 2013-June 2017.  The main goal of the study is to learn more about how the heart, lung and breathing muscles contribute to breathing problems in babies born at less than 32 weeks gestational age.  We also want to understand how other issues that arise during pregnancy and after birth contribute to development of lung disease in infants.  To meet our goals we need to collect a lot of information about the baby – to make sure we have all the pieces of the jigsaw for each infant.

We will:

  • Monitor the development of the heart and blood flow to the lungs with heart ultrasounds
  • When the baby is the equivalent of 36 weeks gestation, we will do a comprehensive assessment of their heart and breathing function, as well as growth and nutritional status.

Some of the factors we’ll look at are:

  • Oxygen saturation of the blood, which will tell us if the baby has lung disease and how severe it is
  • Volume of air in the lungs and what is in that air, which will tell us how healthy the baby’s lungs are and if there are any signs of inflammation that indicate lung disease
  • Body composition, specifically body fat percentage which is a measure of overall health
  • Vitamin A in the blood, which may be linked to severity of lung disease
  • Assess immunological responses of the infant in the blood
  • Stool, saliva, and urine samples which we will compare with other babies in the study to see if there are any factors linked with severity of lung disease

This information will help us understand what causes severe breathing problems in preterm infants and how those breathing problems influence other aspects of a baby’s development so that we can develop treatments to help babies born preterm in the future.

This study was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.