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Eur Respir J. 1997 Jun;10(6):1316-20.

Vital capacities in acute and chronic airway obstruction: dependence on flow and volume histories.

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Cattedra di Fisiopatologia Respiratoria, Dipartimento di Scienze Motorie e Riabilitative, Università di Genova, Italy.


The aim of this study was to investigate whether measurements of vital capacity (VC) are affected by the direction of the manoeuvre (inspiratory vs expiratory) and by the rate of expiratory flow. The study was performed on 25 individuals with chronic airway obstruction (CAO) and a forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) (expressed in standardized residuals (SR)) of -2.0+/-1.4 SD (CAO group), and 10 asthmatic subjects with methacholine (MCh)-induced bronchoconstriction (FEV1 -23+/-1.02 SR) (MCh group). VCs were measured during fast inspiration following both slow (FIVCse) and forced (FIVCfe) expiration from end-tidal inspiration to residual volume (RV), and during slow (EVC) or forced (FVC) expiration from total lung capacity (TLC). In the CAO group, FVC was the smallest volume (3.75+/-1.03 L) and significantly different from the other three estimates of VC; FIVCse (4.03+/-0.91 L) was the largest volume and significantly different from FVC and FIVCfe (3.83+/-0.98 L). In the MCh group, FVC (4.16+/-0.94 L) and EVC (4.19+/-0.89 L) were the largest volumes, although only the difference between FVC and FIVCfe (3.76+/-0.81 L) reached statistical significance. These data suggest that both flow and volume histories contribute to decreased vital capacities during bronchoconstriction. However, whereas increasing expiratory flow always tends to decrease vital capacity, the volume history of full inflation has different effects in chronic and acute bronchoconstriction, probably due to different effects on airway calibre. These results stress the importance of using standardized manoeuvres in order to obtain comparable values of vital capacity.

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