Emerging concepts in the evaluation of ventilatory limitation during exercise: The exercise tidal flow-volume loop

Bruce D. Johnson, Idelle M. Weisman, R. Jorge Zeballos, Ken C. Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations


Traditionally, ventilatory limitation (constraint) during exercise has been determined by measuring the ventilatory reserve or how close the minute ventilation (V̇E) achieved during exercise (ie, ventilatory demand) approaches the maximal voluntary ventilation (MVV) or some estimate of the MVV (ie, ventilatory capacity). More recently, it has become dear that rarely is the MVV breathing pattern adopted during exercise and that the V̇E/MVV relationship tells little about the specific reason(s) for ventilatory constraint. Although it is not a new concept, by measuring the tidal exercise flow-volume (FV) loops (extFVLs) obtained during exercise and plotting them according to a measured end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) within the maximal FV envelope (MFVL), more specific information is provided on the sources (and degree) of ventilatory constraint. This includes the extent of expiratory flow limitation, inspiratory flow reserve, alterations in the regulation of EELV (dynamic hyperinflation), end-inspiratory lung volume relative to total lung capacity (or tidal volume/inspiratory capacity), and a proposed estimate of ventilatory capacity based on the shape of the MFVL and the breathing pattern adopted during exercise. By assessing these types of changes, the degree of ventilatory constraint can be quantified and a more thorough interpretation of the cardiopulmonary exercise response is possible. This review will focus on the potential role of plotting the extFVL within the MFVL for determination of ventilatory constraint during exercise in the clinical setting. Important physiologic concepts, measurements, and limitations obtained from this type of analysis will be defined and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-503
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • Dynamic hyperinflation
  • End-expiratory lung volume
  • Exercise
  • Flow limitation
  • Ventilatory capacity
  • Ventilatory limitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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