Simultaneous sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen multiple-breath washout (MBW) to examine inherent differences in MBW outcomes

Katie J. Bayfield, Alex Horsley, Eric Alton, Samantha Irving, Andrew Bush, Jane C. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple-breath washout (MBW) can be performed with different gases (sulfur hexafluoride (SF6­) and nitrogen (N2)) and different devices, all of which give discrepant results. This study aimed to confirm previously reported differences and explore factors influencing discrepant results; equipment factors or the physical properties of gases used.

Methods Healthy controls (HCs) and participants with cystic fibrosis (CF) completed MBW trials on two commercially available devices (Exhalyzer D (N2) and Innocor (SF6)). Simultaneous washout of both gases at the same time on the commercial equipment and simultaneous washouts using a respiratory mass spectrometer (RMS) were completed in subsets. Primary outcomes were lung clearance index (LCI), breath number and time required to washout.

Results Breath number was higher with N2 washout than SF6 in both HCs and patients with CF, whether washouts were completed individually or simultaneously. The difference was greater in more advanced disease, largely caused by differences in the final part of the washout. Results from commercial devices were similar to those obtained with the RMS.

Conclusions N2 MBW results were higher than SF6 MBW, with some of the largest differences reported to date being observed. The biggest impact was at the end of the washout and this was even the case when gases were washed out simultaneously. N2 and SF6 MBW results are inherently different and should be considered as independent measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)00234-2018
JournalERJ Open Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2019


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