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Physics renews lung function tests

par Anne-Marie - publié le

Physics renews lung function tests

Lung diseases are a major cause of disability and death. Progress in treatment depends critically on how doctors interpret the clinical tests that patients undergo. One standard of these tests is the measure of how a patient absorbs inspired carbon monoxide CO. The measure is called DLCO, the lung diffusing capacity for CO. The interpretation universally used in medical practice is based on the work of Roughton and Forster that dates back to the mid fifties.
In fact, the physics of the process enters the category of diffusion-reaction in complex structures. The complexity here is due to the fact that CO molecules have to cross the space between the alveolar gas and the hemoglobin (Hb) molecules inside red blood cells (RBC). By treating this problem in a recent contribution to Physical Review Letters, the authors show that the original interpretation was based on an implicit conjecture that is proven to be invalid.
Due to the importance of pulmonary diseases, thousands of pages have been written about the use and clinical applications of the standard interpretation. They have now to be revised together with a number of textbooks and computer programs embedded in testing equipment. The authors have proposed and tested anew theory.