Methods for Assessing Expiratory Flow Limitation during Tidal Breathing in COPD Patients

Pulm Med. 2012;2012:234145. doi: 10.1155/2012/234145. Epub 2012 Sep 2.


Patients with severe COPD often exhale along the same flow-volume curve during quite breathing as during forced expiratory vital capacity manoeuvre, and this has been taken as indicating expiratory flow limitation at rest (EFL(T)). Therefore, EFL(T), namely, attainment of maximal expiratory flow during tidal expiration, occurs when an increase in transpulmonary pressure causes no increase in expiratory flow. EFL(T) leads to small airway injury and promotes dynamic pulmonary hyperinflation with concurrent dyspnoea and exercise limitation. In fact, EFL(T) occurs commonly in COPD patients (mainly in GOLD III and IV stage) in whom the latter symptoms are common. The existing up-to-date physiological methods for assessing expiratory flow limitation (EFL(T)) are reviewed in the present work. Among the currently available techniques, the negative expiratory pressure (NEP) has been validated in a wide variety of settings and disorders. Consequently, it should be regarded as a simple, non invasive, most practical, and accurate new technique.