Background: Physiologic dead space is usually estimated by the Bohr-Enghoff equation or the Fletcher method. Alveolar dead space is calculated as the difference between anatomical dead space estimated by the Fowler equal area method and physiologic dead space. This study introduces a graphical method that uses similar principles for measuring and displaying anatomical, physiologic, and alveolar dead spaces.
Methods: A new graphical equal area method for estimating physiologic dead space is derived. Physiologic dead spaces of 1,200 carbon dioxide expirograms obtained from 10 ventilated patients were calculated by the Bohr-Enghoff equation, the Fletcher area method, and the new graphical equal area method and were compared by Bland-Altman analysis. Dead space was varied by varying tidal volume, end-expiratory pressure, inspiratory-to-expiratory ratio, and inspiratory hold in each patient.
Results: The new graphical equal area method for calculating physiologic dead space is shown analytically to be identical to the Bohr-Enghoff calculation. The mean difference (limits of agreement) between the physiologic dead spaces calculated by the new equal area method and Bohr-Enghoff equation was -0.07 ml (-1.27 to 1.13 ml). The mean difference between new equal area method and the Fletcher area method was -0.09 ml (-1.52 to 1.34 ml).
Conclusions: The authors' equal area method for calculating, displaying, and visualizing physiologic dead space is easy to understand and yields the same results as the classic Bohr-Enghoff equation and Fletcher area method. All three dead spaces--physiologic, anatomical, and alveolar--together with their relations to expired volume, can be displayed conveniently on the x-axis of a carbon dioxide expirogram.