Characterizing the complexity of airflow limitation in diagnosing and assessing disease severity in asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory diseases can help guide clinicians toward the most appropriate treatments. Current technologies allow obstructive lung disease to be measured with about 5%−10% precision. A noninvasive dynamic pulmonary function monitor (DPFM) can quantify ventilation inhomogeneities, such as those originating in partially blocked or constricted small airways, with 1% precision if inert gas concentrations can be measured accurately and precisely over three to four decades of sensitivity. We have studied the precision and linearity of a commercially available mass spectrometer, sampling the gas exhaled by a mechanical lung analog, mimicking a multibreath inert gas washout measurement. The root mean square deviation of the inert gas concentration measured for each “breath,” compared to the expected value for a purely exponential decay, is found to be about 1.1% over three decades of concentration. The corresponding overall impairment, a specific measure of ventilation inhomogeneity, is found to be about 0.2%, which indicates that were inhomogeneities observed, the corresponding impairment could be measured with 1% precision.

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