Limitations of electronic compensation for measuring plethysmographic airway resistance in infants
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Electronic compensation to overcome thermal artifacts during plethysmographic estimations of airway resistance is now used routinely in adults and school-age children, and was shown to be a valuable means of discriminating airway function between preschool children with and without lung disease. A similar system is now commercially available for infants, which could increase the applicability of this technique. However, we noted marked discrepancies in electronically calculated values of airway resistance in this age group, both with respect to absolute values displayed and marked within-subject variability on a single test occasion. The aim of this technical report is to summarize our recent findings in order to alert other users to potential problems. Airway resistance (R(aw)) was measured in 62 infants (28 with cystic fibrosis (CF); 34 healthy). Three to five epochs of quiet regular tidal breathing were collected in each infant. Marked within-subject, within-test variability was observed, with the median coefficient of variation (CV) being 9.1% (range, 1.2-52.6%) within and 8.5% (0.1-112%) between epochs. Among healthy infants, R(aw) varied from 0.1-6.4 (kPa x liter(-1) x sec), with no relationship to either body or lung size and complete overlap of results with those from infants with CF, despite abnormal lung function in the latter when assessed by other means. The marked within- and between-subject variability in healthy infants, and lack of discriminative power of R(aw) when derived from electronically compensated values, currently preclude application in either clinical or research studies.
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