A simple method for measuring functional residual capacity by N2 washout in small animals and newborn infants

Tilo Gerhardt, Dorothy Hehre, Eduardo Bancalari, Herman Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


An open circuit N2 washout technique is described for the determination of functional residual capacity in infants. Either 100% O2 or any oxygen/helium mixture can be used as the washing gas. The subject breathes the washing gas through a T-tube and the washed out nitrogen is mixed with this gas in a mixing chamber, placed into the exhalation part of the circuit. The N2 concentration of the mixed gas is analyzed continuously, and the concentration signal is electronically integrated over time. Calibration of the system is accomplished by injecting known amounts of nitrogen or room air into the circuit. The gas flow through the system must remain constant and is adjusted to approximate peak inspiratory flow of the infant. In vitro testing of the system showed that the technique gives reproducible values (coefficient of variance <1.0%) and that the integrated signal output has a close linear correlation with the amount of N2 washed out (r = 0.99). In vivo measurements in 10 cats confirmed the accuracy and reproducibility of the method when compared with N2 collection. The technical advantages of the system are simplicity of components, absence of valves, easy calibration, low dead space, and no need to collect or measure expired gases. For the infant this means no added resistance during washout and no risk of hypoxia, hyperoxia, or hypercapnea. In the presence of pulmonary disease and poor gas mixing the washout period can be prolonged as needed. There is no lower limit of weight or size for functional residual capacity measurements in small infants or animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1165-1169
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'A simple method for measuring functional residual capacity by N2 washout in small animals and newborn infants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this