In a typical lung, the windpipe, or trachea, branches into two main stems. From there, airways branch off the stems much like tree branches in a random, asymmetrical pattern, said Stewart, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nemours Children's Clinic in Pensacola, Fla.
But in the autistic children, those branches were instead doubled up and symmetrical. And the branches were smaller -- whereas in a normal lung you might have one large branch jutting off, in the autistic child, she'd see two, smaller branches instead.The abstract of the presentation is below.
Can Bronchoscopic Airway Anatomy Be an Indicator of Autism?
Barbara Stewart, MD
Nemours Childrens Clinic, Pensacola, FL
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to investigate possible correlation between certain airway anamolies and a definitive diagnosis of autism and/or autistic spectrum disorder.
METHODS: IRB approval was obtained for a restrospective study to evaluate 49 patients with a diagnosis of autism or autistic spectrum disorder. These patients were seen in the pulmonary clinic with a diagnosis of cough that was unresponsive to therapy and who required further pulmonary work-up. Bronchoscopic evaluation of the airway was included as part of that work-up.
RESULTS: Bronchoscopic evaluations revealed the presence of initial normal anatomy followed by double take-offs in the lower airway (or "doublets") in 100% of the autistic population studied.
CONCLUSIONS: There appears to be a correlation between autistic spectrum disorder and airway anatomy. This is a small study of 49 patients. More investigation is warranted.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: At present autism is diagnosed through subjective observation of "autistic behaviors." Autistic children with cough may be diagnosed objectively.
DISCLOSURE: The following authors have nothing to disclose: Barbara Stewart, Barbara Stewart
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