Ratio of FEV1/Slow Vital Capacity of < 0.7 Is Associated With Clinical, Functional, and Radiologic Features of Obstructive Lung Disease in Smokers With Preserved Lung Function

Chest. 2021 Jul;160(1):94-103. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2021.01.067. Epub 2021 Feb 1.


Background: Mild expiratory flow limitation may not be recognized using traditional spirometric criteria based on the ratio of FEV1/FVC.

Research question: Does slow vital capacity (SVC) instead of FVC increase the sensitivity of spirometry to identify patients with early or mild obstructive lung disease?

Study design and methods: We included 854 current and former smokers from the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study cohort with a postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC ≥ 0.7 and FEV1 % predicted of ≥ 80% at enrollment. We compared baseline characteristics, chest CT scan features, exacerbations, and progression to COPD (postbronchodilator FEV1/FVC, < 0.7) during the follow-up period between 734 participants with postbronchodilator FEV1/SVC of ≥ 0.7 and 120 with postbronchodilator FEV1/SVC < 0.7 at the enrollment. We performed multivariate linear and logistic regression models and negative binomial and interval-censored proportion hazards regression models adjusted for demographics and smoking exposure to examine the association of FEV1/SVC < 0.7 with those characteristics and outcomes.

Results: Participants with FEV1/SVC < 0.7 were older and had lower FEV1 and more emphysema than those with FEV1/SVC ≥ 0.7. In adjusted analysis, individuals with postbronchodilator FEV1/SVC < 0.7 showed a greater percentage of emphysema by 0.45% (95% CI, 0.09%-0.82%), percentage of gas trapping by 2.52% (95% CI, 0.59%-4.44%), and percentage of functional small airways disease based on parametric response mapping by 2.78% (95% CI, 0.72%-4.83%) at baseline than those with FEV1/SVC ≥ 0.7. During a median follow-up time of 1,500 days, an FEV1/SVC < 0.7 was not associated with total exacerbations (incident rate ratio [IRR], 1.61; 95% CI, 0.97-2.64), but was associated with severe exacerbations (IRR, 2.60; 95% CI, 1.04-4.89). An FEV1/SVC < 0.7 was associated with progression to COPD during a 3-year follow-up even after adjustment for demographics and smoking exposure (hazard ratio, 3.93; 95% CI, 2.71-5.72). We found similar results when we examined the association of prebronchodilator FEV1/SVC < 0.7 or FEV1/SVC less than the lower limit of normal with chest CT scan features and progression to COPD.

Interpretation: Low FEV1 to SVC in current and former smokers with normal spirometry results can identify individuals with CT scan features of COPD who are at risk for severe exacerbations and is associated with progression to COPD in the future.

Trial registry: ClinicalTrials.gov; No.: NCT01969344T4; URL: www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Keywords: COPD; SVC; pulmonary; pulmonary function test; slow vital capacity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Smokers*
  • Spirometry / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Vital Capacity / physiology*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01969344