Electrical impedance tomography (EIT) is a functional imaging modality capable of tracing continuously regional pulmonary gas volume changes. The aim of our study was to determine if EIT was able to assess spatial and temporal heterogeneity of ventilation during pulmonary function testing in 14 young (37 ± 10 yr, mean age ± SD) and 12 elderly (71 ± 9 yr) subjects without lung disease and in 33 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (71 ± 9 yr). EIT and spirometry examinations were performed during tidal breathing and a forced vital capacity (FVC) maneuver preceded by full inspiration to total lung capacity. Regional inspiratory vital capacity (IVC); FVC; forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV(1)); FEV(1)/FVC; times required to expire 25%, 50%, 75%, and 90% of FVC (t(25), t(50), t(75), t(90)); and tidal volume (V(T)) were determined in 912 EIT image pixels in the chest cross section. Coefficients of variation (CV) were calculated from all pixel values of IVC, FVC, FEV(1), and V(T) to characterize the ventilation heterogeneity. The highest values were found in patients, and no differences existed between the healthy young and elderly subjects. Receiver-operating characteristics curves showed that CV of regional IVC, FVC, FEV(1), and V(T) discriminated the young and elderly subjects from the patients. Frequency distributions of pixel FEV(1)/FVC, t(25), t(50), t(75), and t(90) identified the highest ventilation heterogeneity in patients but distinguished also the healthy young from the elderly subjects. These results indicate that EIT may provide additional information during pulmonary function testing and identify pathologic and age-related spatial and temporal heterogeneity of regional lung function.