Quantitative assessment of the airway response to bronchial tests based on a spirometric curve shift

Objective: Although spirometry is the most common pulmonary function test, there is no method to quantitatively infer about airway resistance or other properties from the flow-volume curves. Recently, an identifiable inverse model for forced expiration was proposed, as well as the idea to deduce changes in airway resistances and compliances from spirometric curve evolution. The aim of this work was to combine the above advances in a method for assessing the airway response to bronchial tests from a spirometric curve shift. Methods: The approach is based on the differential measurement of the degree, site of maximal effect and width of changes, further recalculated into relative changes in the distribution of airway resistances (δRg) and compliances (δCg) along the bronchial tree. To this end, appropriate models were identified using the pre- and post-test spirometry data. The accuracy was validated using sets of data simulated by the anatomy and physiology based models. Finally, the method was used to analyze the bronchodilation tests of three asthmatic subjects. Results: The expected errors in assessing the degree, site and width of changes in the zone of conducting airways were 6.3%, 2.4 generations and 22%, respectively, and for δRg and δCg were 5-10% and 13-16%, respectively. The analyses of clinical data indicated a significant reduction in resistances and an increase in compliances of airway generations 8-12, consistent with clinical knowledge. Conclusion: An unprecedented method to plausibly transforming the spirometry data into the site and degree of changes in airway properties has been proposed. Significance: The method can be used to deduce about the effects of bronchial tests, as well as to monitor changes in the airways between visits or to investigate how inhaled pharmaceuticals affect the bronchi.