Sex differences in growth patterns of the airways and lung parenchyma in children
Seventeen boys and 19 girls, 8-15 yr in age, were studied to ascertain, in the two sex groups, the predictors of airway size [assessed by measurement of tracheal cross-sectional area (CSA) and maximal expiratory flows (Vmax)] and the relative rates of growth of the major divisions of the airways and lung parenchyma. In boys, total lung capacity (TLC) accounted for 77% of the variance of CSA and for 66% of the variability of Vmax. In contrast, somatic growth and maturation in girls accounted for only 45% of the variance of CSA and for 64% of the variability of Vmax; TLC was relatively unimportant. In boys, but not in girls, TLC-corrected CSA was significantly and inversely related to height and to TLC. In girls, TLC-corrected Vmax at 50 and 75% of forced vital capacity were directly related to height. These observations suggest different patterns of airway-parenchymal-somatic growth relationships in the two sexes. Furthermore, parenchymal growth appears to be the best determinant of airway growth in boys. In girls, other factors, perhaps genetic in nature, besides growth of parenchyma, may help determine airway size.