Detection of expiratory flow limitation in COPD using the forced oscillation technique

R. L. Dellacà, P. Santus, A. Aliverti, N. Stevenson, S. Centanni, P. T. Macklem, A. Pedotti, P. M A Calverley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Expiratory flow limitation (EFL) during tidal breathing is a major determinant of dynamic hyperinflation and exercise limitation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Current methods of detecting this are either invasive or unsuited to following changes breath-by-breath. It was hypothesised that tidal flow limitation would substantially reduce the total respiratory system reactance (Xrs) during expiration, and that this reduction could be used to reliably detect if EFL was present. To test this, 5-Hz forced oscillations were applied at the mouth in seven healthy subjects and 15 COPD patients (mean±SD forced expiratory volume in one second was 36.8±11.5 % predicted) during quiet breathing. COPD breaths were analysed (n=206) and classified as flow-limited if flow decreased as alveolar pressure increased, indeterminate if flow decreased at constant alveolar pressure, or nonflow-limited. Of these, 85 breaths were flow-limited, 80 were not and 41 were indeterminate. Among other indices, mean inspiratory minus mean expiratory Xrs (ΔXrs) and minimum expiratory Xrs (Xexp,min) identified flow-limited breaths with 100% specificity and sensitivity using a threshold between 2.53-3.12 cmH2O·s·L-1 (ΔXrs) and -7.38- -6.76 cmH2O·s·L-1 (Xexp,min) representing 6.0% and 3.9% of the total range of values respectively. No flow-limited breaths were seen in the normal subjects by either method. Within-breath respiratory system reactance provides an accurate, reliable and noninvasive technique to detect expiratory flow limitation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-240
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Forced oscillation technique
  • Impedance
  • Respiratory reactance
  • Within-breath reactance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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