Effect of choice of reference equation on analysis of pulmonary function in cystic fibrosis patients

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2001 Mar;31(3):227-37. doi: 10.1002/ppul.1033.


Pulmonary function is an important measure of disease severity and prognosis in cystic fibrosis (CF). It is generally expressed as a percentage of a predicted value, calculated using regression equations derived from a reference population. A number of reference equations are in widespread use. The purposes of this study were to determine: 1) the extent to which, for a given absolute FEV(1) value, percent of predicted (PPFEV(1)) values vary when derived by different reference equations; and 2) whether these differences affect conclusions of longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses. Subjects were all Caucasians 6-18 years old in the 1990 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Registry. We found clinically important discrepancies in PPFEV(1) when calculated by the methods of Dockery et al. [Am Rev Respir Dis 1983;128:405-412] and Wang et al. [Pediatr Pulmonol 1993;15:75-78] as compared to Knudson et al. [Am Rev Respir Dis 1983;127:725-734] or Polgar and Promadhat [Pulmonary Function Testing in Children 1971; Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders]. In longitudinal analyses, the choice of reference equation resulted in varying apparent rates of decline in FEV(1). For example, among subjects ages 12-14 years in 1990, the decline in PPFEV(1) from 1990-1995 varied between 2-11%, depending on the choice of reference equation. In cross-sectional analyses, the choice of reference equation affected the distribution of subjects classified as having mild, moderate, or severe lung disease. CF physicians should be aware of the impact of choice of reference equation in both clinical care and research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / mortality
  • Cystic Fibrosis / physiopathology*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Reference Standards*
  • Respiratory Function Tests / standards*