Cystic fibrosis clinical outcomes

Clinical outcomes are measurable changes in health, function or quality of life that result from our care. Constant review of our clinical outcomes establishes standards against which to continuously improve all aspects of our practice.

About the Cystic Fibrosis Service

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-limiting disorder that affects more than 10,000 people in the UK. A little under half of those with the condition are children. CF is caused by a defective gene that causes the body to produce abnormally thick and sticky mucus. It is a multisystem disorder, involving many internal organs but primarily affecting the lungs and digestive system.

The Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is a designated specialist centre, which cares for approximately 200 children from newborn to 16 years of age. Most referrals come from the National Cystic Fibrosis Newborn Screening Programme.

We have a full specialist multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dietitians, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers and administrative staff. The unit works closely with a number of other departments within GOSH, in particular paediatric radiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology. In a small proportion of cases, the care of children is shared between a local ‘network’ hospital and the specialist service at GOSH. Where this arrangement takes place, the outreach team provides a link between the centre and local team.

There is a strong research collaboration between GOSH and the other London cystic fibrosis specialist paediatric units. We are part of the CTAP (Clinical Trials Accelerator Platform), a research programme that engages pharmaceutical companies and researchers to invest in CF clinical trials. This has increased the number of clinical trial opportunities, and improved access to the newest therapies for our CF patients. The department also has an international reputation for research, particularly in respiratory physiology and measuring lung function in babies.

Clinical outcome measures

1. Lung function

2. Nutritional status

3. Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection rate

How to interpret the graphs

There is natural variation between centres because of differences between the patients receiving care. Using only the national average as a standard makes it difficult to tell if a centres’ outcome are within ‘expected’ variation. For this reason, the funnel plots also show ‘control limits’: the dashed curved lines on the graphs that give them the ‘funnel’ shape. Each graph shows the national average result for all paediatric CF centres in the UK as a horizontal red line in the middle of the funnel.

If the result for a CF centre is between the two control limits its results are expected. If a result is below the bottom control it is lower than expected, if it is above the upper control limit it is higher than expected.

Key to the graphs:

A key to the graphs on this page. The grey circles are centres with their network clinics. The orange circle is stand-alone clinics. There are also two sets of dashes showing two or three standard deviations.

GOSH's clinic ID is 90. The full list of clinics and their IDs can be found on page 70 of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Registry Annual Data Report 2021 on the Cystic Fibrosis Trust website.

1. Lung function, measured by: Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second (FEV1)

One of the key measures undertaken to monitor CF lung function is the Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second (FEV1). This measures the volume of expired air blown out in the first second during a hard and fast breath out. This measure is then compared to that of an average child of the same age, sex, height and ethnicity, who does not have CF. This comparison is against ‘population norms’ to provide a benchmark for a normal range.

A graph showing Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second of children aged 6 and above. The GOSH centre result is highlighted.

Figure 2.2. Age-adjusted Best FEV1% predicted in patients aged six and over without a history of lung transplant, by paediatric centre/clinic.

Published with the permission of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Registry

In 2021 the national average FEV1 % predicted for all those with CF aged 6 and over was 97.3%. The result for our clinic at GOSH in 2021 was 97.5%, just slightly above the national average value and within the control limits. We continue, with our quality improvement programme and other projects striving to increase this value further. It is our goal to transfer our young people to adult services with normal lung function.

2. Nutritional status, measured by: Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of nutritional status.

BMI is a number calculated from weight and height. BMI shows weight in relation to height. In CF a healthy BMI has been shown to be associated with better outcomes including lung function. In children we report BMI as a percentile (comparing the child’s BMI within the range of children of the same sex and age who do not have CF). This comparison is against population norms to provide a benchmark for a normal range.

National guidelines for CF recommend a BMI percentile of 50 or greater is achieved and maintained, however a BMI in the range of 25-75th percentile is regarded as a healthy BMI in all children.

A graph showing the Body Mass Index of patients with Cystic Fibrosis aged 1-15. The GOSH centre result is highlighted.

Figure 2.3 Age adjusted BMI percentile among patients aged 1-15 years by paediatric centre / clinic.

Published with the permission of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Registry

In 2021, the national average BMI percentile for all those with CF aged 1 to 15 was 58%. The BMI percentile for our clinic at GOSH in 2020 was 51.1 which is within the control limits and just above the recommended BMI percentile as per national guidance.

BMI percentile in isolation should be interpreted with caution. In clinic it is discussed in conjunction with weight, height, lung function and clinical status. BMI does not reflect body composition (fat mass and lean mass). Lean mass is more strongly associated with lung function than BMI. Weight, height, dietary intake and absorption of children with CF are continually assessed to ensure steady weight gain and growth is achieved. The nutritional status of each individual patient is reviewed as a priority by the CF dietetic team to ensure timely nutrition interventions are recommended. Interventions include optimising dietary absorption using enzymes, high calorie diets, oral nutrition supplements and the recommendation of enteral tube feeding when appropriate.

3. Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection rate

The lungs and airways are one of the primary systems affected by CF, so it is essential that we do as much as we can to prevent and actively treat chest infections in order to avoid lung damage. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium that can cause infection in people with CF. Early aggressive treatment and careful attention to prevention of cross-infection aims to reduce the number of children with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.

A graph showing the proportion of patients with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa by centre/ clinic. The GOSH centre result is highlighted.

Figure 2.4 Proportion of patients with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa by paediatric centre / clinic.

Published with the permission of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Registry

In 2021, the national average percentage of patients with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in paediatric centres in the UK was 4.8%. The proportion of GOSH patients with chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa was 4.4%, below the national average value and within the control limits.

For this outcome measure a lower % figure is more favourable. Although we continue to be reassured by this data, we certainly cannot be complacent and close attention to cross infection remains high on our list of priorities. Our annual clinic surveillance programme for pseudomonas cross infection continues, where we take samples from as many children as possible in a two-month period and any which grow pseudomonas are sent to a specialist laboratory for ‘typing’ to alert us to any cross-infection potential or particularly virulent strains. To date there has been no evidence of either within the GOSH clinic.

This information was updated in March 2023.