Effect of choice of reference equation on analysis of pulmonary function in cystic fibrosis patients

Margaret Rosenfeld, Margaret S. Pepe, Gary Longton, Julia Emerson, Stacey Fitzsimmons, Wayne Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Pulmonary function is an important measure of disease severity and prognosis in cystic fibrosis (CF). It is generally expressed as a percentage of a predicted value, calculated using regression equations derived from a reference population. A number of reference equations are in widespread use. The purposes of this study were to determine: 1) the extent to which, for a given absolute FEV1 value, percent of predicted (PPFEV1) values vary when derived by different reference equations; and 2) whether these differences affect conclusions of longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses. Subjects were all Caucasians 6-18 years old in the 1990 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Registry. We found clinically important discrepancies in PPFEV1 when calculated by the methods of Dockery et al. [Am Rev Respir Dis 1983;128:405-412] and Wang et al. [Pediatr Pulmonol 1993;15:75-78] as compared to Knudson et al. [Am Rev Respir Dis 1983;127:725-734] or Polgar and Promadhat [Pulmonary Function Testing in Children 1971; Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders]. In longitudinal analyses, the choice of reference equation resulted in varying apparent rates of decline in FEV1. For example, among subjects ages 12-14 years in 1990, the decline in PPFEV1 from 1990-1995 varied between 2-11%, depending on the choice of reference equation. In cross-sectional analyses, the choice of reference equation affected the distribution of subjects classified as having mild, moderate, or severe lung disease. CF physicians should be aware of the impact of choice of reference equation in both clinical care and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-237
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric pulmonology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Epidemiology
  • Pulmonary function
  • Reference equations
  • Statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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