Lung clearance index: assessment and utility in children with asthma

Eur Respir Rev. 2019 Nov 20;28(154):190046. doi: 10.1183/16000617.0046-2019. Print 2019 Dec 31.


There is increasing evidence that ventilation heterogeneity and small airway disease are significant factors in asthma, with evidence suggesting that the small airways are involved from an early stage in childhood asthma. Spirometry is commonly used to monitor lung function in asthmatics; however, it is not sensitive to small airway disease. There has been renewed interest in multibreath washout (MBW) tests, with recognition of the lung clearance index (LCI) as a global index of abnormality in gas mixing of the lungs that therefore also reflects small airway disease. This review summarises the technical and practical aspects of the MBW/LCI in children, and the differences between commercially available equipment. Children with severe asthma are more likely to have an abnormal LCI, whereas most children with mild-to-moderate asthma have an LCI within the normal range, but slightly higher than age-matched healthy controls. Monitoring children with asthma with MBW alongside standard spirometry may provide useful additional information.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests*