Children's Hospital Colorado

Research at the Breathing Institute

The Breathing Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado is one of the world's premier programs for treating children with breathing disorders. We are internationally known for our team's clinical and research leadership roles in caring for children with conditions including asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), cystic fibrosis (CF), pulmonary hypertension (PH), sleep disorders, primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), interstitial and diffuse lung disease, and for associated basic science research.

We offer a top pediatric pulmonology fellowship program with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. We're located near the University of Colorado Hospital and the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus. This partnership enables us to work with some of the best minds in academic research.

Research article

There's currently no technology to measure the structure and function of the lungs, particularly in kids. At Children's Colorado, electrical impedance tomography (EIT) will change that.

Clinical trial

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado want to learn more about the risk of asthma in children with African ancestry.

Children and teenagers with and without asthma

Our pulmonary advancements

We're focused on transforming care and finding cures through innovation. Some of our team's advancements include:

  • Our physicians have led the way in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) research. Frank Accurso, MD, was the head of the national clinical trial that led to FDA approval of Kalydeco, the first drug that treats the underlying causes of CF.
  • We're using novel preliminary protein markers for rare lung disease diagnosis and for CF correlation of structural lung injury and lung function decline
  • The innovative approach in our Ventilator Care Program has resulted in improved communication and continuity of care, and has led to a significant increase in survival rates for these fragile infants.
  • Our team developed an authentic 3-D bronchoscopy training tool to improve procedural competency. In one test of the model on trainees with zero scope experience, 92% could identify all lobes of the bronchi successfully after less than two hours of training.

In 2017, the Breathing Institute had 65 active awards combined, which included awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), foundation and industry awards. These awards provided more than 15 million dollars of funding for our pulmonary research.

"Our team works tirelessly to get our patients home safely with their families. Innovation and research help us better care for technology-dependent children at home."

Christopher Baker, MD

Director, Ventilator Care Program

Learn about Dr. Baker's research

What our pulmonary research means for kids

Our mission in the Breathing Institute is to be a national leader in improving patient outcomes, finding new treatments and developing cures for children with breathing and sleep disorders. Our focus centers on five key components:

  • Pursuing basic scientific studies that are crucial to understanding breathing and pulmonary vascular disorders in children.
  • Finding new opportunities for personalized medicine in translational and clinical research.
  • Developing novel strategies and interdisciplinary teams for the management, prevention and cure of childhood lung diseases.
  • Careful tracking of clinical outcomes for treatment effectiveness and patient safety.
  • Training the next generation of clinicians and clinician-scientists for advancing the care of children with lung disease.
  • Promoting healthier communities through our school and home-based asthma education and medication adherence programs, including the Just Keep Breathing program and the Step Up Asthma program.
  • We've developed a new outpatient nasal esophagoscopy with esophageal biopsy to replace higher-risk procedures for patients.

Creating a clinical practice guideline for home oxygen therapy for children

Although home oxygen therapy is commonly required to care for children with respiratory conditions, there is a striking lack of empirical evidence regarding implementation, monitoring and discontinuation of supplemental oxygen therapy. In some cases, insurance companies and durable medical equipment suppliers apply adult standards for oxygen use that are unsafe for kids. Children and infants have specialized needs for their growing brains and bodies, and their respiratory care should be treated differently than adults.

Robin Deterding, MD, senior author and co-chair of the subcommittee that authored this research, and Don Hayes Jr., MD at Nationwide Children’s and co-chair of the committee, worked together to identify the challenges with home oxygen therapy specific to both pediatric lung disease and pulmonary vascular disease. Joyce Baker, clinical coordinator for Respiratory Therapy, Steven H. Abman, MD, and Stephen Hawkins, MD, from the Breathing Institute at Children’s Colorado participated as members of a multidisciplinary panel and conducted systematic reviews of relevant literature to set a new standard of care for oxygen use in children. Based on this review, the panel developed an official clinical practice guideline featuring recommendations for or against the use of home oxygen therapy based on each condition.

Read the article “Home Oxygen Therapy for Children. An Official American Thoracic Society Clinical Practice Guideline.”

Early Pulmonary Vascular Disease in Preterm Infants Is Associated with Late Respiratory Outcomes in Childhood

Despite marked advances in perinatal care, preterm infants remain at high risk for chronic lung disease, known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). BPD is often associated with poor outcomes, such as prolonged ventilator support, lengthy NICU stays, persistent respiratory failure and late respiratory disease during early childhood. Past experimental work from the Pediatric Heart Lung Center (PHLC) showed that the development of pulmonary vascular disease (PVD) during the perinatal period causes high risk for BPD and for pulmonary hypertension (PH) in rodents. This prospective study, featuring several providers from Children’s Colorado, confirmed this concept in human infants. Researchers determined that early signs of PVD in preterm neonates on day 7 of life increased the susceptibility for BPD as well as late breathing problems, such as frequent ER visits, rehospitalizations and the need for respiratory medications throughout the first 2 years of life. These data further suggest that identifying PVD in preterm infants at day 7 may allow future interventions to prevent late lung disease after preterm birth.

Read the article “Early Pulmonary Vascular Disease in Preterm Infants Is Associated with Late Respiratory Outcomes in Childhood.”

Learn more about the Breathing Institute.

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