Spirometry, the main tool for diagnosis and follow-up of COPD, incompletely describes the disease. Based on volumetric capnography (VCap), an index was developed for the diagnosis and grading of COPD, aimed as a complement or alternative to spirometry.
Nine non-smokers, 10 smokers/former smokers without COPD and 54 smokers/former smokers with COPD were included in the study. Multiple breath washout of N 2 and VCap were studied with Exhalyzer D during tidal breathing. VCap was based on signals for flow rate and CO 2 and was recorded during one breath preceding N 2 washout. Efficiency Index (EFFi) is the quotient between exhaled CO 2 volume and the hypothetical CO 2 volume exhaled from a completely homogeneous lung over a volume interval equal to 15% of predicted total lung capacity.
EFFi increased with increased Global initiative for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stage and the majority of subjects in GOLD 2 and all subjects in GOLD 3 and 4 could be diagnosed as having COPD using the lower 95% confidence interval of the healthy group. EFFi also correlated with N 2 washout (r=−0.73; p<0.001), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (r=0.70; p<0.001) and diffusion capacity for carbon oxide (r=0.69; p<0.001).
EFFi measures efficiency of tidal CO 2 elimination that is limited by inhomogeneity of peripheral lung function. EFFi allows diagnosis and grading of COPD and, together with FEV 1, may explain limitation of physical performance. EFFi offers a simple, effortless and cost-effective complement to spirometry and might serve as an alternative in certain situations.