Measurement of high lung volumes by nitrogen washout method

Y. Sivan, J. Hammer, C. J.L. Newth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies in human infants suggested that thoracic gas volume (TGV) measured at end exhalation may not depict the true TGV and may differ from TGV measured from a series of higher lung volumes and corrected for the volume added. This was explained by gas trapping. If true, we should expect the discrepancy to be more pronounced when functional residual capacity (FRC) and higher lung volumes are measured by gas dilution techniques. We studied lung volumes above FRC by the nitrogen washout technique in 12 spontaneously breathing rhesus monkeys (5.0-11.3 kg wt; 42 compared measurements). Lung volumes directly measured were compared with preset lung volumes achieved by artificial inflation of the lungs above FRC with known volumes of air (100- 260 ml). Measured lung volume strongly correlated with and was not significantly different from preset lung volume (P = 0.05; r = 0.996). The difference between measured and preset lung volume was 0-5% in 41 of 42 cases [1 ± 0.4% (SE)]. The direction of the difference was unpredictable; in 22 of 42 cases the measured volume was larger than the preset volume, but in 17 of 42 cases it was smaller. The difference was not affected by the volume of gas artificially inflated into the lungs. We conclude that, overall, lung volumes above FRC can be reliably measured by the nitrogen washout technique and that FRC measurements by this method reasonably reflect true FRC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1562-1564
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • functional residual capacity
  • rhesus monkeys
  • thoracic gas volume


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