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Experiment 26

Lung Volumes and Capacities

Pulmonary function tests are a broad range of tests that measure lung volumes and
capacities that are usually done in a health care provider's office or a specialized facility.
In other words, they measure how well the lungs take in and exhale air and how
efficiently they transfer oxygen into the blood. Lung volumes and capacities are related to
a person’s age, weight, gender and body position. In fact, vital capacity decreases with
age, in supine position as compared with erect (sitting or standing posture) and with
restrictive and obstructive lung diseases. On the other hand, residual volume increases
with age and with obstructive lung diseases such as emphysema.
Perhaps the oldest device and the most commonly used lung function screening
study is spirometry. Spirometry measures how well the lungs exhale. The information
gathered during this test is useful in diagnosing certain types of lung disorders, but is
most useful when assessing for obstructive lung diseases (especially asthma and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD).
A wet spirometer measures lung volumes based on the simple mechanical
principle that air, exhaled from the lungs, will cause displacement of a closed chamber
that is partially submerged in water. The spirometer consists of two chambers: (1) a larger
chamber which is filled with water and has a breathing hose attached to it, and (2) a
smaller chamber which is inverted inside the first and "suspended" in water. A
counterweight and indicator are attached to the inverted chamber. Air blown into the
inverted chamber causes it to rise and move an indicator along a scale. The scale is
calibrated in liters to give lung volume measurements (Figure 1). The various lung
volumes are defined below and illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Wet spirometer

Figure 2: Principle of using a wet spirometer to measure lung volumes

Relation to the Case

In the case, we have a patient who has symptoms of cough and shortness of
breath. His chest x-ray showed symptoms of infiltrates and pneumonia which will
definitely affect his breathing. Thus, it is important to perform pulmonary function tests
such as spirometry to measure the patient’s lung volume and capacities. This can help
determine the degree of difficulty the lungs are going through. It can also be used after
the administration of medications to assess their effect, and to measure progress in
disease treatment.

Objectives of the Experiment

1. To define and measure the various lung volumes and capacities
2. To compare the values obtained between a female and a male subject.

The different lung volumes and capacities were measured with the use of a wet
spirometer taken with the subject standing.
The various lung volumes and capacities were done in three trials and the average
of each was taken. The ones measured were as follows:
Tidal Volume – The subject was asked to inhale a normal breath. After which,
he/she was asked to place the mouthpiece of the spirometer between the lips and then
exhale normally into the spirometer.
Expiratory Reserve Volume (ERV) – After exhaling normally, the mouthpiece is
placed between the lips and the subject was asked to exhale forcefully all the additional
air possible.
Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV) – The subject was asked to breathe in deeply as
much as he/she can. Then place the mouthpiece and exhale normally. The value recorded
here is subtracted from the tidal volume to get the IRV.
Vital Capacity – Breathe in maximally, place the mouthpiece and then forcibly
exhale all the air possible.
Inspiratory Capacity (IC) – After exhaling normally, breathe in as deeply as
possible, place the mouthpiece and exhale normally.

Figure 3: Testing of the subjects involved

Marco Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average
TV 0.4 0.5 0.7 0.53 L
ERV 0.7 0.7 1.0 0.80 L
IRV 1.1 – 0.4 = 0.7 1.4 – 0.5 = 0.9 1.2 – 0.7 = 0.5 0.70 L
VC 3.0 3.5 4.5 3.66 L
IC 1.1 1.4 1.2 1.23 L
Figure 4: Tabulated result of the male subject’s different lung volume and capacities

Isay Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average

TV 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.23 L
ERV 0.6 1.0 0.8 0.80 L
IRV 0.5 – 0.3 = 0.2 0.4 – 0.2 = 0.2 0.4 – 0.2 = 0.2 0.20 L
VC 1.4 1.4 1.2 1.33 L
IC 0.5 0.4 0.4 0.43 L
Figure 5: Tabulated result of the female subject’s different lung volume and capacities

The measurement of the different lung volumes and capacities by the use of a wet
spirometer was done with the subject standing so that the abdominal organs do not
interfere with the diaphragm as it contracts and moves downward, pushing out the
abdomen and creating suction which draws in the air and expands the lungs.
The various lung volumes and capacities that were measured using the spirometer
are the tidal volume, expiratory reserve volume, inspiratory reserve volume, vital
capacity and inspiratory capacity. The tidal volume or the resting tidal volume is the
volume of air entering the lungs during a single inspiration which is approximately equal
to the volume leaving the lungs on the subsequent expiration. The normal value of which
is 500ml/0.5L. The expiratory reserve volume is the additional volume of air that can be
expired after the resting tidal volume which amounts to 1500 ml. Meanwhile, the amount
of air than can still be inspired after the resting tidal volume is termed inspiratory reserve
volume which is about 3000 ml. On the other hand, the capacities are the sums of the two
or more lung volumes. Inspiratory capacity is the maximum volume of air that can be
inspired from end expiratory position. It is called a capacity because it is the sum of tidal
volume and inspiratory reserve volume. The vital capacity is the maximal volume of air
that a person can expire, regardless of the time required, after a maximal inspiration. In
other words, it is the sum of the three volumes: tidal volume, inspiratory reserve volume
and expiratory reserve volume.. A variant on this method is the forced vital capacity
(FVC), in which the person takes a maximal inspiration and then exhales maximally as
fast as possible. The apparatus that measures this also measures the volume expired after
1 second. This is the forced expiratory volume in 1 second or the FEV1 of which normal
persons can expire approximately 80 percent of the FVC in 1 second. These
measurements are useful diagnostic tools for patients with obstructive lung disorders in
which they cannot expire a normal fraction of the FVC in 1 second because of their
narrowed airways. On the contrary, patients with restrictive lung diseases are
characterized by a reduced vital capacity but a normal FEV1/FVC ratio.
Based on the tabulated results above, we can see that there is a difference in the
lung volume and capacities recorded between the male and female. Usually the lung
volumes and capacities of males are larger than the lung volumes and capacities of
females. Even when males and females are matched for height and weight, males have
larger lungs than females. Because of this gender-dependent lung size difference,
different normal tables must be used for males and females.
Also as noted on the tables above, the female subject’s lung volume results was
considerably lower than normal. This could probably be that the subject had coughs and
colds during experimentation that affected her breathing, and in turn affected the different
lung volumes.
We can note in this experiment that a spirometer can only measure the different
lung volumes and capacities mentioned above. The total lung capacity and residual
volume cannot be measured directly with a spirometer. In the case of the residual volume,
it is not possible for us to expire this since this volume of air remains in the lungs even
after we forcibly expire. Meanwhile, since the total lung capacity is the sum of the four
distinct lung volumes including here is the residual volume, it also cannot be measured.

In this experiment, we were able to define and measure the various lung volumes
and capacities with the use of a wet spirometer. However, the residual volume and the
total lung capacity were not measured since the residual volume, which is one of the
components of the total lung capacity, is the volume of air remaining in lungs even after
forceful expiration. We also observed that the lung volumes and capacities between males
and females vary. Males usually exhibit larger lung volumes and capacities than females
because of the gender-dependent lung size difference.
Kisner, C. and Colby, L. (1996). Therapeutic Exercise Foundations and Techniques, 3rd
ed. F. A. Davis Company.