Integration of electronic nose technology with spirometry: validation of a new approach for exhaled breath analysis

J Breath Res. 2015 Oct 15;9(4):046001. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/9/4/046001.


New 'omics'-technologies have the potential to better define airway disease in terms of pathophysiological and clinical phenotyping. The integration of electronic nose (eNose) technology with existing diagnostic tests, such as routine spirometry, can bring this technology to 'point-of-care'. We aimed to determine and optimize the technical performance and diagnostic accuracy of exhaled breath analysis linked to routine spirometry. Exhaled breath was collected in triplicate in healthy subjects by an eNose (SpiroNose) based on five identical metal oxide semiconductor sensor arrays (three arrays monitoring exhaled breath and two reference arrays monitoring ambient air) at the rear end of a pneumotachograph. First, the influence of flow, volume, humidity, temperature, environment, etc, was assessed. Secondly, a two-centre case-control study was performed using diagnostic and monitoring visits in day-to-day clinical care in patients with a (differential) diagnosis of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer. Breathprint analysis involved signal processing, environment correction based on alveolar gradients and statistics based on principal component (PC) analysis, followed by discriminant analysis (Matlab2014/SPSS20). Expiratory flow showed a significant linear correlation with raw sensor deflections (R(2) = 0.84) in 60 healthy subjects (age 43 ± 11 years). No correlation was found between sensor readings and exhaled volume, humidity and temperature. Exhaled data after environment correction were highly reproducible for each sensor array (Cohen's Kappa 0.81-0.94). Thirty-seven asthmatics (41 ± 14.2 years), 31 COPD patients (66 ± 8.4 years), 31 lung cancer patients (63 ± 10.8 years) and 45 healthy controls (41 ± 12.5 years) entered the cross-sectional study. SpiroNose could adequately distinguish between controls, asthma, COPD and lung cancer patients with cross-validation values ranging between 78-88%. We have developed a standardized way to integrate eNose technology with spirometry. Signal processing techniques and environmental background correction ensured that the multiple sensor arrays within the SpiroNose provided repeatable and interchangeable results. SpiroNose discriminated controls and patients with asthma, COPD and lung cancer with promising accuracy, paving the route towards point-of-care exhaled breath diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electronic Nose*
  • Exhalation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spirometry / methods*