The mini Wright peak flow meter is a useful, portable instrument for field studies but being sensitive to air density will under-read at altitude. True peak expiratory flow will increase at altitude, however, because of the decreased air density, given that dynamic resistance is unchanged. The effect of simulated altitude on peak expiratory flow (PEF) was determined in six subjects with both the mini Wright meter and a volumetric spirometer (which is unaffected by air density). With increasing altitude PEF as measured by the spirometer increased linearly with decreasing pressure, so that at a barometric pressure of 380 mm Hg* (half an atmosphere, corresponding to an altitude of 5455 m) there was a 20% increase over sea level values. The mini Wright flow meter gave readings 6% below sea level values for this altitude--that is, under-reading by 26%. Measurements of PEF made at altitude with the mini Wright meter should be corrected by adding 6.6% per 100 mm Hg drop in barometric pressure.
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