Thorax 68:385-386 doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-201804
  • Research letter

The role of facemask spirometry in motor neuron disease

  1. Ian Smith1
  1. 1Respiratory Sleep & Support Centre, Papworth Hospital NHS Trust, Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire, UK
  2. 2MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sandip Kamakhya Banerjee, Clinical Research Fellow, Respiratory Sleep and Support Centre, Papworth Hospital NHS Trust, Cambridgeshire CB23 3RE, UK; sandipbanerjee74{at}
  • Accepted 5 July 2012
  • Published Online First 27 July 2012

Respiratory failure is the most frequent cause of death in people with motor neuron disease (MND). Vital capacity and maximal inspiratory and expiratory mouth pressures are the methods most commonly used to assess respiratory muscle impairment. Forced vital capacity (FVC) at diagnosis, and the rate of decline, are predictors of survival. An FVC of <50% predicted is proposed by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE, UK) as an indication of the need for evaluation for non-invasive ventilation.1

For many patients with MND who have facial or bulbar muscle weakness, standard spirometry with a mouthpiece or tube is inaccurate due to mouth leaks as they are unable to effectively seal their lips around the tube/mouthpiece. Sniff nasal inspiratory pressure (SNIP), and maximal inspiratory mouth pressure (PiMax) may be preferable, but are less widely available and not always successful.2 Mask spirometry has been used but not validated in MND2 and in healthy volunteers, tube spirometry gives greater values than a mask.3 We compared mask and tube interfaces for spirometry in subjects with MND.

Consecutive patients were …