Pulmonary function tests in the detection of left heart failure: correlation with pulmonary artery wedge pressure

Respiration. 1986;49(4):241-50. doi: 10.1159/000194886.


Standard pulmonary function tests, including lung volumes measured by three fundamentally different techniques, were performed in 40 patients undergoing cardiac catheterization. These were compared with clinical and radiologic evaluations in detecting left heart failure (LHF). Patients with elevation in mean pulmonary artery wedge pressure (PAWM) greater than or equal to 20 mm Hg had significant restrictive changes with reduction in vital capacity (VC), forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1.0), and total lung capacity (TLC) measured by helium dilution and body plethysmography. Radiographic TLC was not reduced in these patients or correlated with PAWM. Obstructive changes were not present. Radiologic gradings by 5 different observers were reasonably accurate in detecting LHF but varied between observers. VC and TLC measured by helium dilution and body plethysmography were slightly less sensitive but more specific in detecting PAWM elevation. Clinical classification was sensitive but nonspecific; in addition, clinical signs were not reliable indicators of elevated PAWM. We conclude that pulmonary function testing may provide objective, accurate, and useful information in the evaluation of cardiac patients for LHF. However, radiographic measurement of thoracic cage volume does not reflect the changes in lung gas volume measured by gas dilution or plethysmographic techniques in patients with chronic congestive heart failure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plethysmography, Whole Body
  • Pulmonary Wedge Pressure*
  • Spirometry
  • Total Lung Capacity
  • Vital Capacity