Problems in the measurement of functional residual capacity.
ABSTRACT Accurate assessment of lung volume in infancy is important to determine the impact of disease and the efficacy of therapies. A new generation of infant plethysmographs with lower apparatus deadspace has been produced, but gives lower volume results than those from older traditional plethysmographs. We hypothesized that the new plethysmographs might have greater sensitivity to the adiabatic effect and hence they, rather than the traditional plethysmographs, produced erroneous results. Our aim was to assess the influence of the adiabatic effect on the results of a contemporary plethysmograph, an older traditional plethysmograph and a helium gas dilution system using a lung model. Altering the amount of copper wool within the lung model allowed the influence of the adiabatic effect on the plethysmographic results to be assessed. The measured compared to the actual volumes were significantly lower for the contemporary plethysmograph compared to the traditional plethysmograph (p < 0.001) and to the helium gas dilution system (p < 0.001). Under optimal testing conditions the contemporary plethysmograph under-recorded by 11-13%, whereas the other two systems gave similar results to the actual volumes. As the effect of the adiabatic effect was increased, the discrepancy between the results of the contemporary and the traditional plethysmographs increased. We conclude, the contemporary plethysmograph is more sensitive to adiabatic effects and hence under-records.