The low specificity of the Hyperventilation Provocation Test

J Psychosom Res. 1996 Nov;41(5):435-49. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(96)00195-x.


The Hyperventilation Provocation Test (HVPT) has become a routine procedure in the diagnosis of hyperventilation syndrome (HVS). During an HVPT the patient voluntarily overbreathes for several minutes to produce hypocapnia. The test is considered positive if the induced symptoms are recognized by the patient as similar to those experienced in daily life. The present study tests the assumption that hypocapnia is the primary trigger for symptoms during an HVPT. In a randomized double-blind crossover design. 115 patients suspected of HVS and 40 healthy controls performed an HVPT and a placebo test (PT, isocapnic overbreathing). The HVPT induced more symptoms than the PT, especially more neuromuscular symptoms, cerebral symptoms, paresthesias, and temperature sensations. However, the absolute difference between the number of symptoms induced by the HVPT and PT was small. In patients, the PT induced 66% of symptoms induced by the HVPT. In the control group this percentage was 60%. The low specificity of the HVPT implies that symptom recognition during the HVPT is invalid as a diagnostic criterion for HVS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hyperventilation / diagnosis
  • Hyperventilation / physiopathology
  • Hyperventilation / psychology*
  • Hypocapnia / etiology
  • Hypocapnia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Maximal Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Carbon Dioxide