A proposal of spirometry reference equations for Korean workers

Ann Occup Environ Med. 2022 Jun 21:34:e14. doi: 10.35371/aoem.2022.34.e14. eCollection 2022.


Background: Although spirometry results can be interpreted differently depending on the reference equation used, there are no established criteria for selecting reference equations as part of the special health examinations for Korean workers. Thus, it is essential to examine the current use of reference equations in Korea, quantify their impact on result interpretation, and propose reference equations suitable for Korean workers, while also considering the environmental conditions of special health examination facilities.

Methods: The 213,640 results from the special health examination database were analyzed to identify changes in the ratio of measured values to reference values of lung capacity in Korean workers with changes in age or height, and changes in the agreement of interpretations with the reference equation used. Data from 238 organizations that participated in the 2018-2019 quality control assessment by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency were used to identify the spirometer model and reference equations used in each special health examination facility.

Results: Korean special health examination facilities used six reference equations, and the rate of normal or abnormal ventilatory diagnoses varied with the reference equation used. The prediction curve of the Global Lung Function Initiative 2012-Northeast Asian (GLI2012) equation most resembled that of the normal group, but the spirometry model most commonly used by examination facilities was not compliant with the GLI2012 equation. With a scaling factor of 0.95 applied to the Dr. Choi equation, the agreement with the GLI2012 equation was > 0.81 for men and women.

Conclusions: We propose the GLI2012 equation as reference equation for spirometry in Korean workers. The GLI2012 equation exhibited the most suitable prediction curve against the normal lung function group. For devices that cannot use the GLI2012 equation, we recommend applying a scaling factor of 0.95 to the Dr. Choi equation.

Keywords: Reference equation; Scaling factor; Special health examination; Spirometry.