In a group of 34 inpatients showing varying degrees of airflow obstruction we studied the relationship between breath sound intensity (BSI) and abnormalities of lung function. The BSI was evaluated by chest auscultation to provide a score, in a manner similar to that described by Pardee et al. (1976), and was found to correlate closely with indices of airflow obstruction of their logarithms such as specific conductance (r = 0.759), maximal expiratory flow at 50% of vital capacity (r = 0.790), forced expiratory volume in one second (r = 0.768), and forced expiratory volume to vital capacity ratio (r = 0.860). Correlations with lung volumes, although statistically significant, were weaker. Multiple correlation studies showed that BSI score correlated independently with indices of both airflow obstruction and lung distension. In our experience, BSI score can be useful not only in the detection but also the quantification of airflow obstruction, although its predictive power is impaired in subjects with associated restrictive disorders. It can also fail to detect mild, pure airflow obstruction.
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