Calibration of time derivatives of forced vital capacity by explosive decompression

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1980 Feb;121(2):343-50. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1980.121.2.343.


A simple, portable, inexpensive device is described that simulates expiratory flow curves for calibration of spirometers. A 4-L metal cylinder filled with copper mesh is fitted with a precision manometer. The pressure is increased to twice atmospheric and released by explosive decompression through 4 easily interchangeable resistors. The ratio of forced expiratory volume in one second to forced vital capacity ranged from 0.80 to 0.25, thus encompassing the range from normal to severe obstruction. Accuracy was defined by 25 measurements of forced vital capacity that differed by no more than 0.5% from the actual cylinder volume. Repeatability was reflected by a standard deviation of at most 0.04 L/s for one-second forced expiratory volume, mid-expiratory flow, and instantaneous flows at 50 and 25% of the forced vital capacity. Peak flow was less reproducible. Calibrations of a water spirometer at increased altitude and at temperatures from 4 degrees to 37 degrees C revealed no significant changes in volume or flow rates. Standard values have remained unchanged for 2.5 yr. Three volume spirometers and 2 primary flow devices were tested extensively.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Calibration / standards
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Forced Expiratory Flow Rates / instrumentation
  • Forced Expiratory Flow Rates / standards*
  • Humans
  • Reference Standards
  • Spirometry / instrumentation
  • Spirometry / standards
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors