Background: Expiratory flow limitation (EFL) during tidal breathing is common in patients with severe COPD, and a major determinant of dynamic hyperinflation and exercise limitation. EFL can be measured by the forced oscillation technique (FOT); however, the relevance to clinical parameters is not fully understood. We hypothesized that emphysema extent and pulmonary function would contribute independently to the degree of EFL.
Methods: Broadband frequency FOT and pulmonary function tests were performed in 74 patients with COPD to derive respiratory system resistance (Rrs) and reactance (Xrs), and the EFL index as expressed by the differences between inspiratory and expiratory phases of Xrs at 5 Hz (ΔX5). Emphysema extent was measured by high-resolution computed tomography and scored.
Results: On the basis of the median value of ΔX5 (0.55 cmH2O/L/s), patients were classified into a high or low EFL index group. In multivariate regression analyses, a high EFL index was independently predicted by emphysema score, peripheral airway obstruction (forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of forced vital capacity), hyperinflation (functional residual capacity), and airway caliber (whole-breath Rrs at 5 Hz).
Conclusions: EFL measured by FOT is a global measure of COPD that has separable etiologies and is useful for evaluating the disease condition.