Consequences of Expiratory Flow Limitation at Rest in Subjects with Cystic Fibrosis

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Abstract

Rationale:

Expiratory flow limitation at resting tidal volume (EFLTV) presents a severe mechanical constraint in chronic lung diseases and has not yet been studied longitudinally in cystic fibrosis.

Objectives:

To study the effect of EFLTV as it emerged from simple spirometry on lung function and clinical status in cystic fibrosis.

Methods:

Best year spirometry that included tidal flow/volume curves and the related clinical data were retrospectively collected over 12 ± 3.0 yr/person from 108 subjects with cystic fibrosis. The year in which forced expiratory flow, midexpiratory phase (FEF25-75%, L/s) was equal to tidal peak expiratory flow (L/s) was defined as EFLTV-onset year.

Measurements and Main Results:

EFLTV occurred in 55 (51%) subjects, at age 23 ± 6 years. At EFLTV onset, tidal peak expiratory flow and FEF25-75% values were 1.44 ± 0.23 L/s and FEV1 was 62 ± 10% predicted. Within the following 2 years, FEV1 dropped to 48 ± 11% predicted, and 35 (63%) of the subjects reported shortness of breath at rest. Hospital days increased from 5.3 ± 24.6 to 24.12 ± 9.0 d/yr (P = 0.0001). Of the 55 subjects, 29 (53%) received transplant or died, with survival time being 6.9 ± 3.9 years.

Conclusions:

EFLTV onset may be an important pathophysiological event that could influence the natural history of lung function decline in subjects with cystic fibrosis. This may lead to a significant deterioration in lung function in the following 2 years alongside an increase in the number of hospitalization days. The monitoring of FEV1 alone does not offer as good a threshold signal, because values are only moderately reduced. Therefore, identifying EFLTV appearance is potentially a signal for therapeutic intervention. Further studies are warranted to confirm our findings.

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