A cohort of survivors of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), with matched controls, was studied to assess growth, respiratory function, and exercise performance. Nineteen of 24 survivors from an 11 year period (79%) were compared with 19 matched controls. Subjects had detailed auxology, performed spirometry and cycle ergometry, and completed questionnaires about respiratory symptoms and exercise. There were no significant differences between the groups for height, weight, sitting height, head circumference, or body mass index expressed as SD scores. The mean (95% confidence interval) percentage predicted forced vital capacity (FVC) was 84.7% (79.1 to 90.3) in index cases and 96.5% (91.4 to 101.6) in controls (p < 0.01). There was no significant difference in total lung capacity. Expiratory flow rates corrected for FVC were also similar between groups, suggesting normal airway function relative to lung size. Mean maximum oxygen consumption in ml/kg/min was 40.1 (36.8 to 43.4) and 42.2 (38.5 to 45.8) in index and control cases. These differences were not significant. Index cases achieved a similar minute ventilation to controls by more rapid and shallower breathing. Index cases had lower perception of their own fitness and lower enjoyment of exercise, although habitual activity levels were similar. Survivors of CDH repair have reduced functional lung volumes, but normal airway function compared with matched controls. They have no growth impairment nor significant impairment of exercise performance, although they have more negative perceptions of their own fitness. They should be encouraged and expected to participate fully in sport and exercise.
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