Regional lung response to bronchodilator reversibility testing determined by electrical impedance tomography in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016 Jul 1;311(1):L8-L19. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00463.2015. Epub 2016 May 17.


Patients with obstructive lung diseases commonly undergo bronchodilator reversibility testing during examination of their pulmonary function by spirometry. A positive response is defined by an increase in forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1). FEV1 is a rather nonspecific criterion not allowing the regional effects of bronchodilator to be assessed. We employed the imaging technique of electrical impedance tomography (EIT) to visualize the spatial and temporal ventilation distribution in 35 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at baseline and 5, 10, and 20 min after bronchodilator inhalation. EIT scanning was performed during tidal breathing and forced full expiration maneuver in parallel with spirometry. Ventilation distribution was determined by EIT by calculating the image pixel values of FEV1, forced vital capacity (FVC), tidal volume, peak flow, and mean forced expiratory flow between 25 and 75% of FVC. The global inhomogeneity indexes of each measure and histograms of pixel FEV1/FVC values were then determined to assess the bronchodilator effect on spatial ventilation distribution. Temporal ventilation distribution was analyzed from pixel values of times needed to exhale 75 and 90% of pixel FVC. Based on spirometric FEV1, significant bronchodilator response was found in 17 patients. These patients exhibited higher postbronchodilator values of all regional EIT-derived lung function measures in contrast to nonresponders. Ventilation distribution was inhomogeneous in both groups. Significant improvements were noted for spatial distribution of pixel FEV1 and tidal volume and temporal distribution in responders. By providing regional data, EIT might increase the diagnostic and prognostic information derived from reversibility testing.

Keywords: COPD; EIT; pulmonary function testing; spirometry; ventilation distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Spirometry
  • Tomography
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vital Capacity


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Albuterol