Multiple breath washout (MBW) has been demonstrated to be sensitive for assessing ventilation inhomogeneity (VI). VI is supposed to reflect changes in peripheral airways which are not apparent using spirometry. The lung clearance index (LCI) is the most robust parameter to quantify VI, and is largely independent of age; therefore, it potentially qualifies as a surrogate outcome parameter for clinical and research purposes, particularly during childhood. This review summarizes the current evidence regarding the clinical value of measuring LCI in children. Feasibility, reproducibility and diagnostic accuracy have been demonstrated; available data confirm that LCI is superior to spirometry in detecting small air way disease. However, there is little information regarding the value in the individual patient, and sparse longitudinal data looking at its prognostic value. Currently, only in patients with Cystic Fibrosis, it appears likely that knowledge of LCI will be useful for routine clinical management.
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