Rationale: International guidelines promote the use of post-bronchodilator spirometry values in the definition and severity classification of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, post-bronchodilator reference values have not yet been developed.
Objectives: To derive reference values for post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and FEV1/FVC, and to compare these reference values with locally derived and existing pre-bronchodilator reference values.
Methods: Based on a random sample of a general adult population, 2,235 subjects (70% of invited subjects) performed spirometry with reversibility testing. A reference population of healthy never-smokers constituted 23% of the study population (n=515). Reference values for median and lower-limit-of-normal pre- and post-bronchodilator lung function and bronchodilator response were modeled using quantile regression analyses.
Main results: The reference population had equal proportions of men and women in the age range 26-82 yr. Both FEV1 and FVC decreased with age and increased with height. FEV1/FVC decreased with age, although this trend was not statistically significant for men after bronchodilatation. Linear models gave the best overall fit. Lower-limit-of-normal post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC exceeded 0.7 for both sexes. Post-bronchodilator prediction equations gave higher predicted FEV1 and FEV1/FVC than both locally derived and existing pre-bronchodilator equations. The bronchodilator response decreased with age.
Conclusions: The present study is the first to develop reference values for post-bronchodilator lung function. Post-bronchodilator prediction equations can facilitate better management of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by avoiding falsely high FEV1% predicted with a subsequent underestimation of disease severity.