Thomas L. Petty, M.D.
Professor of Medicine,
Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)
Our Capacity is Vital
The spirometer, which measures lung function, was introduced into medicine by a surgeon in 1846 in London, England. The inventor, John Hutchinson, coined the term vital capacity. He realized that a low vital capacity was predictive of early deaths from many causes. In his era, the main lung disease causing death was tuberculosis.
How sad it is that the spirometer today is still not widely used in all primary care physicians' offices. The reasons for this lack of widespread use of an instrument which is critical in diagnosing and monitoring COPD, asthma, scarring lung diseases, and other less common abnormalities, is because of the mystique surrounding spirometry, and instrument costs, which historically have been from $3,000 to $5,000, or even more. But since the launch of the National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP), two companies have already introduced
These technological advances have made simple spirometry available for widespread use. We need to get past the barriers that spirometer is in any way mysterious, painful, or dangerous. We need to let everyone know that spirometry is the only way of identifying early stages of COPD and related disorders, including asthma and some of the scarring lung diseases. "Spirometry for All", should be our motto.
I will be in touch next month.
Published: Jan 31 2002