The nonspecific (NS) pulmonary function (PF) pattern refers to a PF test with a normal total lung capacity (TLC), normal FEV1/FVC ratio, and a low FEV1, a low FVC, or both. Currently, no information is available regarding the long-term stability of the NS pattern or variables that predict changes in subjects with an initial NS PF pattern.
From 1990 to 2005 we identified 1,284 subjects with an NS pattern on initial PF testing with one or more follow-up PF tests 6 months or more after the initial NS test result. Lung volumes, diffusing capacity, and spirometry data were analyzed. A multivariate, multinomial logistic regression model was used to study the association between different variables and the final PF pattern.
Overall, 3,674 PF tests were performed in 1,284 subjects over a median follow-up period of 3 years. At last follow-up, 818/1,284 (64%) subjects continued to show the NS pattern, whereas 208/1,284 (16%) showed a restrictive pattern, 191/1,284 (15%) an obstructive pattern, 42/1,284 (3%) a normal pattern, and 25/1,284 (2%) a mixed pattern. The multinomial logistic regression analysis showed that increasing values for specific airway resistance and the difference between TLC and alveolar volume were predictors of a change to an obstructive pattern on follow-up.
The NS pattern is a distinct and stable PF test pattern with roughly two-thirds of patients continuing to show this pattern on follow-up testing. Current interpretation guidelines erroneously label the NS pattern as representing obstruction and need to be changed to reflect these data.