Breath-holding capability of adults. Implications for spiral computed tomography, fast-acquisition magnetic resonance imaging, and angiography

Invest Radiol. 1994 Sep;29(9):848-51.


Purpose: The breath-holding capabilities of various groups of individuals were evaluated to develop protocols so that patients undergoing spiral computed tomography (CT), digital angiography, and breath-hold magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be studied successfully.

Methods: Twenty-five outpatients and 25 inpatients (all adults) were studied before undergoing body CT. Each subject was asked to hold his or her breath for as long as possible. Then each patient was asked to perform as many repetitive 12-second breath holds as possible. These data were correlated with demographic and historical information.

Results: The maximum breath-hold time for inpatients and those outpatients who were heavy smokers or had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or congestive heart failure (CHF) was 18 to 32 seconds (95% confidence interval) with a mean of 25 seconds. For all other outpatients, breath-hold time was 38 to 56 seconds (mean = 45 seconds). The 95% confidence interval for the number of 12-second breath holds for these two groups was 4 to 6 breath holds (mean = 4.9) and 6 to 7 breath holds (mean = 6.6), respectively. One inpatient could not hold his breath at all and three others were only able to hold their breath once for short periods. The sex and age of the patient had no significant effect on breath-holding performance.

Conclusions: Breath-holding protocols must account for the diminished capabilities of most inpatients, and outpatients who are heavy smokers or have COPD or CHF. Most outpatients who are not heavy smokers or without COPD or CHF can achieve a single breath hold of 38 seconds, or up to six 12-second breath holds.

MeSH terms

  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients
  • Respiration*
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*