31 Jan 24

Spirometry for young adults: why it's important for early diagnosis and management of respiratory diseases

Spirometry is one of the most commonly used solutions to test pulmonary function for the early diagnosis and management of respiratory diseases. With the use of a device called a spirometer, several different parameters can be measured, such as:

  • Forced vital capacity (FVC)
  • Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), i.e., the volume of air exhaled in the first second
  • FEV1/FVC ratio

A combination of these spirometry results can be used as a diagnostic tool for chronic lung conditions. This is particularly important in children and young adults, as early diagnosis can help avoid the exacerbation of underlying conditions, as well as engaging in harmful habits like smoking.

No matter the condition, early diagnosis means treatment can begin sooner, which may prevent further lung function loss. In addition, since there is currently no cure for chronic lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), prevention is the most effective way to ensure a better quality of life for patients in the long run.

Spirometry for the diagnosis of asthma in children

Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases that can be diagnosed with the help of a spirometry test.

Although childhood asthma is not different from asthma in adults, children suffering from it may face unique challenges: emergency department visits, hospitalizations and missed school days are some examples. In addition, diagnosis of asthma in children is sometimes delayed or overlooked, as symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing or cough may be due to other conditions, such as flu, allergies or bronchitis.

In this context, spirometry is a recommended tool for pulmonary healthcare in children, thanks to its being non-invasive and reliable. Children aged 6 and older can safely perform spirometry for both the diagnosis and monitoring of the disease.

The importance of spirometry for early diagnosis of obstructive pulmonary diseases

Although the presence of airflow limitation (AFL) in patients with low FEV1/FVC ratio can be easily determined using spirometry – allowing clinicians to pursue active case-finding in patients at high risk of COPD before severe airflow limitation develops – this tool is still substantially underused in the screening of patients, especially when they are asymptomatic.

Early diagnosis, however, can effectively help prevent poor prognosis even in healthy patients.

Recent studies showed that individuals with potentially underdiagnosed AFL may present an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, while young and middle-aged adults with AFL may experience increased respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity and early death.

Although COPD prevalence increases with age, and the disease is typically diagnosed after 50, the insurgence of symptoms and airflow obstruction may occur several years before. In addition to that, it is also important to consider that not all patients who develop COPD lead unhealthy lifestyles: air pollution, workplace exposures to fumes or chemicals, and genetics are also causes and risk factors for COPD.

Research showed that common parameters measured in spirometry can be predictive of airflow obstruction up to 20 years in advance: low FEV1, low FEV1/FVC and airflow obstruction in young adults are highly predictive of low lung function and airflow obstruction in middle age.

Where to find the best spirometer for your spirometry test

In conclusion, spirometry can be a valuable ally for the early diagnosis and management of respiratory diseases, provided that a good-quality spirometer is used.

MIR is a global medical device leader in Spirometry, Oximetry and MedTech solutions, with an established presence in over 100 Countries worldwide. Its wide range of devices and accessories relies on the most innovative technology in the field, with guides and datasheets available for download on the Company website.

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