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Shortened Lung Clearance Index is a repeatable and sensitive test in children and adults with cystic fibrosis
  1. David Hannon1,
  2. Judy M Bradley2,
  3. Ian Bradbury2,
  4. Nicholas Bell3,
  5. J Stuart Elborn1 and
  6. Katherine O'Neill1
  1. 1Centre for Infection and Immunity, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  2. 2Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies (CHART), University of Ulster, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Respiratory Medicine Department, Bristol Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre, Bristol Royal Infirmary, University Hospitals Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor J Stuart Elborn; s.elborn{at}


Background Lung clearance index (LCI) derived from sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) multiple breath washout (MBW) is a sensitive measure of lung disease in people with cystic fibrosis (CF). However, it can be time-consuming, limiting its use clinically.

Aim To compare the repeatability, sensitivity and test duration of LCI derived from washout to 1/30th (LCI1/30), 1/20th (LCI1/20) and 1/10th (LCI1/10) to ‘standard’ LCI derived from washout to 1/40th initial concentration (LCI1/40).

Methods Triplicate MBW test results from 30 clinically stable people with CF and 30 healthy controls were analysed retrospectively. MBW tests were performed using 0.2% SF6 and a modified Innocor device. All LCI end points were calculated using SimpleWashout software. Repeatability was assessed using coefficient of variation (CV%). The proportion of people with CF with and without abnormal LCI and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) % predicted was compared. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve statistics were calculated. Test duration of all LCI end points was compared using paired t tests.

Results In people with CF, LCI1/40 CV% (p=0.16), LCI1/30 CV%, (p=0.53), LCI1/20 CV% (p=0.14) and LCI1/10 CV% (p=0.25) was not significantly different to controls. The sensitivity of LCI1/40, LCI1/30 and LCI1/20 to the presence of CF was equal (67%). The sensitivity of LCI1/10 and FEV1% predicted was lower (53% and 47% respectively). Area under the ROC curve (95% CI) for LCI1/40, LCI1/30, LCI1/20, LCI1/10 and FEV1% predicted was 0.89 (0.80 to 0.97), 0.87 (0.77 to 0.96), 0.87 (0.78 to 0.96), 0.83 (0.72 to 0.94) and 0.73 (0.60 to 0.86), respectively. Test duration of LCI1/30, LCI1/20 and LCI1/10 was significantly shorter compared with the test duration of LCI1/40 in people with CF (p<0.0001) equating to a 5%, 9% and 15% time saving, respectively.

Conclusions In this study, LCI1/20 was a repeatable and sensitive measure with equal diagnostic performance to LCI1/40. LCI1/20 was shorter, potentially offering a more feasible research and clinical measure.

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Equipment Evaluations

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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