The single-breath nitrogen test in coal miners: Factors associated with failure to perform

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The single-breath nitrogen washout (SBN2) test was used, along with spirometry, in the baseline examination of a longitudinal study in a cohort of active coal miners from North-eastern France. The procedure was computerized, allowing the technician to coach and encourage the subject, and excluding computation errors. While all miners performed satisfactory spirometry, a significant number were unable to meet the National Heart and Lung Institute recommendation concerning a 10% agreement of vital capacities. When the limits were set at ± 12%, 57 miners (24.2%) were still classified as failing to perform. When compared to those who succeeded, those failing proved to be significantly older, had more cumulated dust exposure, a higher prevalence of chronic cough and sputum, and a trend for more micronodulation on the chest radiographs. The ventilatory function did not differ between the two groups. These results confirm previous data on spirometric test failure concerning older age and respiratory symptoms, extending them to the SBN2 test. The present study further indicates that dust exposure and roentgenologic pneumoconiosis nodulation are associated with failure to perform the SBN2 test.




Bourgkard, E., Teculescu, D., Caillier, I., Marchand, M., Costantino, E., & Pham, Q. T. (1997). The single-breath nitrogen test in coal miners: Factors associated with failure to perform. Respiratory Medicine, 91(8), 479–484.

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