Multiple Breath Washout Cannot Be Used for Tidal Breath Parameter Analysis in Infants

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Multiple breath washout (MBW) testing with SF6 gas mixture is routinely used to assess ventilation distribution in infants. It is currently unknown whether SF6 changes tidal breathing parameters during MBW in infants. We investigated if SF6 does change tidal breathing parameters in infants and whether a separate tidal breathing trace prior to MBW testing is necessary.


Tidal breathing during MBW was compared to standard tidal breathing in room air in healthy infants (n = 38), preterm infants (n = 41), and infants with cystic fibrosis (n = 41). Outcomes included inspiratory and expiratory times (TI and TE), time to peak tidal inspiratory and expiratory flow (tPTIF and tPTEF), tidal volume (VT), respiratory rate (f), and minute ventilation (VE).


Breath times were all significantly increased for both healthy (TE: −0.0790 [−0.10566, −0.05217]; mean difference [95% confidence intervals]) and CF (−0.109 [−0.15235, −0.06607]) infants during the MBW wash-in (P < 0.001). Healthy infants and those with CF showed decreased f during MBW wash-in (P < 0.001); however, no change in VT, resulting in a decreased VE (0.154 (0.086, 0.222) and 0.128 (0.069, 0.186) for healthy and CF infants, respectively, P < 0.001). Preterm infants experienced a decreased VE during both wash-in (0.134 [0.061, 0.207]; P < 0.001) and wash-out phases of MBW (P < 0.05).


There are differences in tidal breathing parameters during MBW testing with SF6 in infants. It is, therefore, important to measure a separate tidal breathing trace in room air, prior to MBW testing to ensure rigour of tidal breath indices derived from analysis. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2016;51:531–540. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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