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Area under the forced expiratory flow-volume loop in spirometry indicates severe hyperinflation in COPD patients

Authors Das N, Topalovic M, Aerts JM, Janssens W

Received 30 August 2018

Accepted for publication 16 December 2018

Published 14 February 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 409—418

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S185931

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Andrew Yee

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell


Nilakash Das,1 Marko Topalovic,1 Jean-Marie Aerts,2 Wim Janssens1

1Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases, Department of Chronic Diseases, Metabolism and Ageing, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; 2Division of Animal and Human Health Engineering, Department of Biosystems, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Background: Severe hyperinflation causes detrimental effects such as dyspnea and reduced exercise capacity and is an independent predictor of mortality in COPD patients. Static lung volumes are required to diagnose severe hyperinflation, which are not always accessible in primary care. Several studies have shown that the area under the forced expiratory flow-volume loop (AreaFE) is highly sensitive to bronchodilator response and is correlated with residual volume/total lung capacity (RV/TLC), a common index of air trapping. In this study, we investigate the role of AreaFE% (AreaFE expressed as a percentage of reference value) and conventional spirometry parameters in indicating severe hyperinflation.
Materials and methods: We used a cohort of 215 individuals with COPD. The presence of severe hyperinflation was defined as elevated air trapping (RV/TLC >60%) or reduced inspiratory fraction (inspiratory capacity [IC]/TLC <25%) measured using body plethysmography. AreaFE% was calculated by integrating the maximal expiratory flow-volume loop with the trapezoidal rule and expressing it as a percentage of the reference value estimated using predicted values of FVC, peak expiratory flow and forced expiratory flow at 25%, 50% and 75% of FVC. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analysis was used to identify cut-offs that were used to indicate severe hyperinflation, which were then validated in a separate group of 104 COPD subjects.
Results: ROC analysis identified cut-offs of 15% and 20% for AreaFE% in indicating RV/TLC >60% and IC/TLC <25%, respectively (N=215). On validation (N=104), these cut-offs consistently registered the highest accuracy (80% each), sensitivity (68% and 75%) and specificity (83% and 80%) among conventional parameters in both criteria of severe hyperinflation.
Conclusion: AreaFE% consistently provides a superior estimation of severe hyperinflation using different indices, and may provide a convenient way to refer COPD patients for body plethysmography to address static lung volumes.

Keywords: spirometry, flow-volume loop, air trapping, severe hyperinflation, COPD, area under flow-volume loop

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