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Point and Counterpoint |

POINT: Should Oscillometry Be Used to Screen for Airway Disease? YesOscillometry Screening for Airway Disease? Yes FREE TO VIEW

Kenneth I. Berger, MD; Roberta M. Goldring, MD; Beno W. Oppenheimer, MD
Author and Funding Information

From the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, New York University School of Medicine; and André Cournand Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory, Bellevue Hospital.

CORRESPONDENCE TO: Kenneth I. Berger, MD, New York University School of Medicine, 240 E 38th St, Room M-15, New York, NY 10016; e-mail: kenneth.berger@nyumc.org


CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None declared.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2015;148(5):1131-1135. doi:10.1378/chest.15-0106
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Detection of airway disease by physiologic testing was initially described using spirometry to determine vital capacity and expiratory airflow under maximal effort to distinguish obstructive from restrictive disease processes.1 Subsequently, Dubois and colleagues2 demonstrated direct assessment of airway resistance using plethysmography and in a separate publication described the precursor of the forced oscillation technique to measure respiratory system resistance.3 This review addresses the question of whether direct assessment of resistance by forced oscillation provides diagnostic information equivalent or superior to standard assessment of airflow rates by spirometry.

The rationale and limitations of each technique are shown in Table 1. Spirometry measures airflow rates during forceful exhalation, but pressure remains unmeasured; thus, abnormalities in airway resistance are inferred based on the assumption of maximal effort. Ohm’s law would dictate that assessment of airflow provides equivalent diagnostic information as direct assessment of resistance:
(Resistance=ΔPressureairflow) 

Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 1 ]  Comparison Between Spirometry and Oscillometry

Although this assumption is likely valid for a system comprising a single airway, its utility may be limited in lungs, which contain a complex branching system of airways. The multiplicity of airways in the periphery produces an increasing cumulative cross-section area such that disease localized in small airways may not be apparent on spirometry (ie, the quiet zone) until the extent of disease is severe.4 This limitation of spirometry may preclude early diagnosis because many respiratory diseases originate in the small airways. Therefore, optimal screening for airway disease should include testing modalities sensitive to disease localized in the lung periphery.

Oscillometry is a noninvasive test performed during tidal breathing. Pressure fluctuations of small magnitude (2-5 cm H2O) are applied at the mouth, and the reflections of airflow and pressure are measured.5,6 The relationship between airflow and pressure is analyzed to derive the respiratory system resistance (Table 2). Two additional features provide information beyond that available from spirometry. First, a parameter (reactance) can be derived that reflects respiratory system dynamic elastance (distensibility) and inertia. Second, assessment of parameters at multiple oscillation frequencies allows identification of nonuniformities in airflow distribution.6,7 Because nonuniformities may be the only manifestation of small airway dysfunction, these parameters may allow identification of early disease. Thus, oscillometry allows for the diagnosis of small airway disease on screening evaluation analogous to the “gold standard” demonstration of frequency dependence of compliance by esophageal manometry.

Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 2 ]  Commonly Used Oscillometry Parameters

Subtle markers available on spirometry suggest the presence of small airway dysfunction. Reduction in midexpiratory airflows and reduction in expiratory reserve volume may occur prior to reduction in FEV1. Although abnormality in these parameters define the presence of airway dysfunction, the site of disease remains unclear (ie, mild large vs severe small airway). In addition, these parameters may vary when patient effort and completion of the expiratory maneuver are inadequate. Notably, numerous studies demonstrated the detection of airway disease by oscillometry, even when these subtle spirometric markers were normal.6,8,9

The enhanced diagnostic capabilities of oscillometry are evident in numerous studies. Abnormal oscillometry may identify pediatric and adult subjects with symptoms suggestive of either asthma or COPD, even in the setting of normal FEV1 and normal midexpiratory airflow.6,8 In addition, for patients with established airway disease, respiratory symptom severity and quality-of-life measures may correlate with oscillometry parameters that reflect small airway function rather than FEV1.8 Moreover, the presence of small airway dysfunction predicts subsequent loss of symptom control in patients with asthma.8 Finally, improvement in small airway function during therapy is frequently noted on oscillometry but is not evident on FEV1 or midexpiratory airflows.10 Despite the lack of change in spirometry, the improved small airway function correlates with improved symptoms, airway and alveolar inflammation, and bronchial hyperreactivity.11-13

Bronchoprovocation testing provides a unique opportunity to assess simultaneous development of respiratory dysfunction and lower respiratory symptoms. Inhalation of methacholine has been shown to predominately alter small airway rather than large airway function.14,15 During methacholine challenge testing, changes in oscillometry variables precede and are more sensitive than spirometry variables for the detection of bronchoconstriction.6 Importantly, symptom onset during methacholine challenge testing is more tightly linked to development of small airway obstruction than to changes in FEV1.15 Moreover, in some individuals, small airway dysfunction on oscillometry may be the only evidence for airway hyperreactivity, highlighting the diagnostic limitations of spirometry.15

The foregoing discussion reflects physiologic studies and clinical trials; therefore, the relevance to using oscillometry to screen for airway disease remains uncertain. Screening for airway disease encompasses two different approaches: evaluation of patients with symptoms suggestive of airway disease and screening for disease in asymptomatic subjects.

The largest experience to date using oscillometry in routine practice has been in populations exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse on September 11, 2001. Small airway dysfunction demonstrated by both oscillometry and frequency dependence of compliance has been shown in a case series of subjects with WTC dust exposure.9 Spirometry, including measures of midexpiratory airflow rates, remained within normal limits, suggesting that disease was localized to the small airways. Further analyses demonstrated that the magnitude of small airway abnormality was correlated to severity and frequency of wheeze. Attribution of symptoms to small airways dysfunction was confirmed during methacholine challenge.15 The magnitude of small airway dysfunction was independently associated with the presence of systemic inflammation as assessed by serum C-reactive protein levels. Finally, small airway and distal lung injury was confirmed on histologic evaluation.16 Taken together, these observations highlight that oscillometry overcomes the poor sensitivity of spirometry in the diagnosis of airway disease.

A case-control study based on these data was performed using oscillometry as a screening test in both symptomatic (case) and asymptomatic (control) subjects.17 Spirometry was ineffective in identifying disease in symptomatic subjects because normal data were observed in the overwhelming majority (Fig 1A). Addition of oscillometry demonstrated elevated respiratory resistance in the majority of symptomatic cases, indicating dysfunction not detectable by spirometry (Fig 1B). Although oscillometry identified abnormalities in some asymptomatic subjects, they were predominately confined to those who were overweight or obese in accordance with prior observations in obesity.18 Finally, additional analyses confirmed that lower respiratory symptoms were associated with intensity of WTC dust exposure and abnormal small airway function.17 These associations were not related to spirometry measures.

Figure Jump LinkFigure 1 –  A, Spirometry results illustrated in asymptomatic vs symptomatic subjects following exposure to World Trade Center dust. The majority of cases demonstrated normal spirometry despite new-onset respiratory symptoms. B, Results when subjects with normal spirometry are classified by oscillometry data. Abnormal oscillometry was evident in the majority of symptomatic subjects despite normal spirometry. (Data adapted with permission from Friedman et al.17)Grahic Jump Location

Several factors require consideration when interpreting oscillometry data. First, because oscillometry assesses respiratory system function, diseases of the parenchyma, pleura, and chest wall may produce abnormal data. However, positive results from these disease states are acceptable for a screening test because they can be diagnosed by routine clinical assessment. Second, obesity is associated with elevated airway resistance and heterogeneous distribution of ventilation on oscillometry evaluation.18 Proposed mechanisms include small airway compression from mass loading, intrinsic airway inflammation, and vascular congestion. Although the precise mechanism remains unclear, identification of the airway dysfunction is clinically relevant because it is associated with respiratory symptoms and reversible following weight loss.19

Normative data for oscillometry have been published. Although each study used different equipment with differing pressure waveforms, the upper limits of normal for oscillometry were similar and match the values observed in the aforementioned clinical studies. Moreover, a multicenter study combined data from multiple devices to derive global predicted equations for oscillometry variables.20 These equations account for the effects of sex, stature, age, and body weight (up to BMI of 35 kg/m2).

Our arguments in favor of using oscillometry as a screening test include the following:

  1. Requirement for early diagnosis when only the small airways may be involved

  2. Observation that spirometry markers of small airway dysfunction are unreliable

  3. Enhanced capability to detect small airway dysfunction when spirometry remains normal

  4. Oscillometry abnormalities that can be related to respiratory symptoms even when spirometry remains normal

  5. Disorders other than airway disease that may produce abnormal oscillometry but are usually identifiable by clinical evaluation.

CAO

chronic airway obstruction

ECLIPSE

Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints

FOT

forced oscillation technique

FRC

functional residual capacity

WTC

World Trade Center

Baldwin ED, Cournand A, Richards DW Jr. Pulmonary insufficiency; physiological classification, clinical methods of analysis, standard values in normal subjects. Medicine (Baltimore). 1948;27(3):243-278. [PubMed]
 
Dubois AB, Botelho SY, Bedell GN, Marshall R, Comroe JH Jr. A rapid plethysmographic method for measuring thoracic gas volume: a comparison with a nitrogen washout method for measuring functional residual capacity in normal subjects. J Clin Invest. 1956;35(3):322-326. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Dubois AB, Brody AW, Lewis DH, Burgess BF Jr. Oscillation mechanics of lungs and chest in man. J Appl Physiol. 1956;8(6):587-594. [PubMed]
 
Mead J. The lung’s “quiet zone.” N Engl J Med. 1970;282(23):1318-1319. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
King GG. Cutting edge technologies in respiratory research: lung function testing. Respirology. 2011;16(6):883-890. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Kaminsky DA. What does airway resistance tell us about lung function? Respir Care. 2012;57(1):85-96. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Goldman MD, Saadeh C, Ross D. Clinical applications of forced oscillation to assess peripheral airway function. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005;148(1-2):179-194. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Bickel S, Popler J, Lesnick B, Eid N. Impulse oscillometry: interpretation and practical applications. Chest. 2014;146(3):841-847. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Goldring RM, Herberg ME, et al. Distal airway function in symptomatic subjects with normal spirometry following World Trade Center dust exposure. Chest. 2007;132(4):1275-1282. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Abe T, Setoguchi Y, Kono Y, et al. Effects of inhaled tiotropium plus transdermal tulobuterol versus tiotropium alone on impulse oscillation system (IOS)-assessed measures of peripheral airway resistance and reactance, lung function and quality of life in patients with COPD: a randomized crossover study. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2011;24(5):617-624. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Kirsten AM, Watz H, Brindicci C, Piccinno A, Magnussen H. Effects of beclomethason/formoterol and budesonide/formoterol fixed combinations on lung function and airway inflammation in patients with mild to moderate asthma - an exploratory study. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2015;31:79-84. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Hozawa S, Terada M, Hozawa M. Comparison of budesonide/formoterol Turbuhaler with fluticasone/salmeterol Diskus for treatment effects on small airway impairment and airway inflammation in patients with asthma. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2011;24(5):571-576. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Yamaguchi M, Niimi A, Ueda T, et al. Effect of inhaled corticosteroids on small airways in asthma: investigation using impulse oscillometry. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2009;22(4):326-332. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Pimmel RL, Fullton JM, Ginsberg JF, et al. Correlation of airway resistance with forced random noise resistance parameters. J Appl Physiol. 1981;51(1):33-39. [PubMed]
 
Segal LN, Goldring RM, Oppenheimer BW, et al. Disparity between proximal and distal airway reactivity during methacholine challenge. COPD. 2011;8(3):145-152. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Caplan-Shaw CE, Yee H, Rogers L, et al. Lung pathologic findings in a local residential and working community exposed to World Trade Center dust, gas, and fumes. J Occup Environ Med. 2011;53(9):981-991. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Friedman SM, Maslow CB, Reibman J, et al. Case-control study of lung function in World Trade Center Health Registry area residents and workers. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011;184(5):582-589. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Berger KI, Segal LN, et al. Airway dysfunction in obesity: response to voluntary restoration of end expiratory lung volume. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88015. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Macht R, Goldring RM, Stabile A, Berger KI, Parikh M. Distal airway dysfunction in obese subjects corrects after bariatric surgery. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2012;8(5):582-589. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oostveen E, Boda K, van der Grinten CP, et al. Respiratory impedance in healthy subjects: baseline values and bronchodilator response. Eur Respir J. 2013;42(6):1513-1523. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 

Figures

Figure Jump LinkFigure 1 –  A, Spirometry results illustrated in asymptomatic vs symptomatic subjects following exposure to World Trade Center dust. The majority of cases demonstrated normal spirometry despite new-onset respiratory symptoms. B, Results when subjects with normal spirometry are classified by oscillometry data. Abnormal oscillometry was evident in the majority of symptomatic subjects despite normal spirometry. (Data adapted with permission from Friedman et al.17)Grahic Jump Location

Tables

Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 1 ]  Comparison Between Spirometry and Oscillometry
Table Graphic Jump Location
TABLE 2 ]  Commonly Used Oscillometry Parameters

References

Baldwin ED, Cournand A, Richards DW Jr. Pulmonary insufficiency; physiological classification, clinical methods of analysis, standard values in normal subjects. Medicine (Baltimore). 1948;27(3):243-278. [PubMed]
 
Dubois AB, Botelho SY, Bedell GN, Marshall R, Comroe JH Jr. A rapid plethysmographic method for measuring thoracic gas volume: a comparison with a nitrogen washout method for measuring functional residual capacity in normal subjects. J Clin Invest. 1956;35(3):322-326. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Dubois AB, Brody AW, Lewis DH, Burgess BF Jr. Oscillation mechanics of lungs and chest in man. J Appl Physiol. 1956;8(6):587-594. [PubMed]
 
Mead J. The lung’s “quiet zone.” N Engl J Med. 1970;282(23):1318-1319. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
King GG. Cutting edge technologies in respiratory research: lung function testing. Respirology. 2011;16(6):883-890. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Kaminsky DA. What does airway resistance tell us about lung function? Respir Care. 2012;57(1):85-96. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Goldman MD, Saadeh C, Ross D. Clinical applications of forced oscillation to assess peripheral airway function. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005;148(1-2):179-194. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Bickel S, Popler J, Lesnick B, Eid N. Impulse oscillometry: interpretation and practical applications. Chest. 2014;146(3):841-847. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Goldring RM, Herberg ME, et al. Distal airway function in symptomatic subjects with normal spirometry following World Trade Center dust exposure. Chest. 2007;132(4):1275-1282. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Abe T, Setoguchi Y, Kono Y, et al. Effects of inhaled tiotropium plus transdermal tulobuterol versus tiotropium alone on impulse oscillation system (IOS)-assessed measures of peripheral airway resistance and reactance, lung function and quality of life in patients with COPD: a randomized crossover study. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2011;24(5):617-624. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Kirsten AM, Watz H, Brindicci C, Piccinno A, Magnussen H. Effects of beclomethason/formoterol and budesonide/formoterol fixed combinations on lung function and airway inflammation in patients with mild to moderate asthma - an exploratory study. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2015;31:79-84. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Hozawa S, Terada M, Hozawa M. Comparison of budesonide/formoterol Turbuhaler with fluticasone/salmeterol Diskus for treatment effects on small airway impairment and airway inflammation in patients with asthma. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2011;24(5):571-576. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Yamaguchi M, Niimi A, Ueda T, et al. Effect of inhaled corticosteroids on small airways in asthma: investigation using impulse oscillometry. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2009;22(4):326-332. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Pimmel RL, Fullton JM, Ginsberg JF, et al. Correlation of airway resistance with forced random noise resistance parameters. J Appl Physiol. 1981;51(1):33-39. [PubMed]
 
Segal LN, Goldring RM, Oppenheimer BW, et al. Disparity between proximal and distal airway reactivity during methacholine challenge. COPD. 2011;8(3):145-152. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Caplan-Shaw CE, Yee H, Rogers L, et al. Lung pathologic findings in a local residential and working community exposed to World Trade Center dust, gas, and fumes. J Occup Environ Med. 2011;53(9):981-991. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Friedman SM, Maslow CB, Reibman J, et al. Case-control study of lung function in World Trade Center Health Registry area residents and workers. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011;184(5):582-589. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Berger KI, Segal LN, et al. Airway dysfunction in obesity: response to voluntary restoration of end expiratory lung volume. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e88015. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oppenheimer BW, Macht R, Goldring RM, Stabile A, Berger KI, Parikh M. Distal airway dysfunction in obese subjects corrects after bariatric surgery. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2012;8(5):582-589. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
Oostveen E, Boda K, van der Grinten CP, et al. Respiratory impedance in healthy subjects: baseline values and bronchodilator response. Eur Respir J. 2013;42(6):1513-1523. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 
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