Pulmonary function testing in children and infants

Physiol Meas. 2014 Mar;35(3):R59-90. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/35/3/R59. Epub 2014 Feb 20.


Pulmonary function testing is performed in children and infants with the aim of documenting lung development with age and making diagnoses of lung diseases. In children and infants with an established lung disease, pulmonary function is tested to assess the disease progression and the efficacy of therapy. It is difficult to carry out the measurements in this age group without disturbances, so obtaining results of good quality and reproducibility is challenging. Young children are often uncooperative during the examinations. This is partly related to their young age but also due to the long testing duration and the unpopular equipment. We address a variety of examination techniques for lung function assessment in children and infants in this review. We describe the measuring principles, examination procedures, clinical findings and their interpretation, as well as advantages and limitations of these methods. The comparability between devices and centres as well as the availability of reference values are still considered a challenge in many of these techniques. In recent years, new technologies have emerged allowing the assessment of lung function not only on the global level but also on the regional level. This opens new possibilities for detecting regional lung function heterogeneity that might lead to a better understanding of respiratory pathophysiology in children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lung / growth & development
  • Lung / physiology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests / instrumentation*
  • Respiratory Function Tests / methods*