Can thoracic gas volume be measured in infants with airways obstruction?

S. Godfrey, C. S. Beardsmore, C. Maayan, E. Bar-Yishay

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60 Scopus citations


Thoracic gas volume (Vtg) was measured in a whole-body, infant plethysmograph in 46 infants with recurrent wheezing after bronchiolitis, 25 infants with cystic fibrosis, and 6 infants without overt lung disease during the first 13 months of life. When related to weight or length, 56.5% of the bronchiolitic infants had low Vtg values, which were more than 2 SD below their predicted normal. The Vtg of the other groups was normal or above. The bronchiolitic infants with Vtg values in the normal range had more severe airways obstruction and it is probable that their Vtg values were also underestimated. Investigation of possible sources of technical or experimental error failed to reveal any explanation for the low Vtg in the bronchiolitic infants. In 5 infants, Vtg determined plethysmographically was correlated linearly to functional residual capacity determined by helium dilution, although Vtg values were greater in all. The administration of albuterol or treatment with steroids failed to make significant changes in Vtg in the bronchiolitic infants. It is suggested that there is a physiologic basis for the presumed underestimation of Vtg in wheezy infants after bronchiolitis, either because of uneven alveolar pressure changes within the chest leading to the effective exclusion of a portion of the lung volume or because there are some alveolar units with very low compliance that change little in volume during respiratory efforts against an occlusion. These results call into question the validity of the plethysmographic measurement of Vtg or airway resistance in these infants. If the error in Vtg is due to uneven alveolar pressure changes, it is suggested that the calculated specific airway conductance is probably correct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-251
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1986
Externally publishedYes


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