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You are watching: Volume of air that can be forcefully exhaled after a normal expiration

StatPearls . Endowment Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.



Residual volume (RV) is the volume the air remaining in the lung after best forceful expiration. In other words, the is the volume of air that cannot be expelled, thus leading to the alveoli come remain open at every times. The residual volume continues to be unchanged nevertheless of the lung volume in ~ which expiration was started. Recommendation values for residual volume space 1 come 1.2 L, but these values room dependent on determinants including age, gender, height, weight, and physical task levels.

The residual volume is crucial component the the complete lung volume (TLC) and also the useful residual capacity (FRC). TLC is the complete volume the the lungs at maximal incentive which is around 6 l on average, though true values room dependent on the same factors that impact residual volume. FRC is the quantity of air staying in the lungs after a normal, physiologic expiration (Figure 1A). The TLC, FRC, and also RV room absolute lung volumes and also cannot be measured directly with spirometry. Instead, they need to be calculated utilizing indirect measurement methods such together gas dilution or human body plethysmography. Calculating the residual volume can give an indication of lung physiology and also pathology. <1><2><3>


The residual volume features to keep the alveoli open also after maximum expiration. In healthy and balanced lungs, the air that renders up the residual volume is utilized for consistent gas exchange come occur between breaths. Inspiration color etc atmospheric oxygen right into the lung to replenish the oxygen-depleted residual air for gas exchange in the alveoli.


Although breath mechanics are complex, it is essential to remember that air will flow from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas. Throughout tidal breathing, the inspiration and expiration at physiologic rest, the volume of air entering and also leaving the lungs is known as the tidal volume (TV). ~ above tidal inspiration, inspiratory muscle contraction increases the volume that the chest causing the intrapleural pressure (Ppl) to drop from -5 cm H2O come -8 cm H2O. The lessened Ppl reasons the alveolar press (Palv) come decrease 1 cm H2O listed below atmospheric pressure. As a result, air from the fairly high-pressure setting flows right into the low-pressure alveoli. Inspiration is one active process requiring the rhythmic convulsion of inspiratory muscle that work-related to increase the chest cavity. Tidal expiration is a passive process that works in reverse. The inspiratory muscles relax, diminish the size of the chest cavity, and increasing Ppl and Palv. When Palv is higher than atmospheric pressure, air flows the end of the lungs. 

Residual volume can be understood by examination of breathing that exceeds tidal volumes. Following maximal inspiration, the volume of air that leaves the lungs during a maximal pressure expiration is known as the crucial capacity (VC). VC is created of the tidal volume, expiratory to make reservation volume (ERV), and inspiratory make reservation volume (IRV). The ERV is the volume of waiting that can be forcefully exhaled after ~ a normal resting expiration, leaving just the RV in the lungs. Forcefully exhaling the ERV is an active process requiring the convulsion of expiratory muscles in the chest and also abdomen. This increases Ppl and also Palv above atmospheric pressure. Due to the elastic recoil that the alveoli, the pressure inside the the alveoli remains higher than the of the pleura, and also the alveoli stay open. The press inside the prayer (Paw) slowly decreases together you move up indigenous the alveoli come the trachea together a result of raised airway resistance. In part of small, non-cartilaginous airways, pleural press is better than airway pressure and also causes a collapse of the airway (Figure 1B). The wait that remains in the lungs after the collapse of all small airways is the residual volume.

Related Testing

There room no methods to measure residual volume directly. Other lung volumes and also capacities must very first be measure up directly prior to RV deserve to be calculated. The first step in calculating RV is to recognize the FRC. Measurement of the FRC can be done using one of the complying with three tests.

Helium Dilution Test

In this test, the patience inhales a recognized volume of waiting (V1) include a known fraction of helium (FHe1) in ~ end-expiration the tidal breathing, wherein the volume of air left in the lung is same to FRC. A spirometer measures the fraction of helium ~ equilibration in the lung (FHe2).

Nitrogen Washout

The nitrogen washout test utilizes the nitrogen that provides up 78% the atmospheric air. A patient breathes with a 2-way valve associated to 100% oxygen ~ above inspiration and a collection spirometer ~ above expiration. The spirometer actions the volume of air and portion of nitrogen expired v each breath. When the fraction of nitrogen is listed below 1.5% because that 3 continually breaths, the test is complete. The initial quantity of nitrogen in the lungs have to be same to the full amount the nitrogen exhaled, and also thus the FRC deserve to be calculated.

Body Plethysmography

Plethysmography is based on Boyle’s legislation of gases. In a closed device at a constant temperature, the product the pressure and volume of a well-known mass that gas is constant. The is come say, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

To command the test, a patience is inserted inside an fastened chamber and also breathes v a spirometer that have the right to measure alters in pressure and volume. ~ a duration of tidal breathing, the spirometer is closed in ~ end-expiration, and the patient breathes against it. Changes in pressure at the mouthpiece are recorded. Together the patient exhales, the volume that the thoracic cavity deserve to be calculation by recording the readjust in pressure of the whole chamber. This check is the most accurate measure up of FRC, but likewise the many expensive.

Once the FRC has actually been measure using one of these 3 methods, the expiratory make reservation volume (ERV) and vital capacity (VC) space measured using typical spirometry. Calculations of TV and also TLC can be made utilizing the measured FRC, ERV, and also VC values and also the complying with equations:

Clinical Significance

Obstructive Lung disease (OLD)

Obstructive lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary condition (COPD), asthma, and bronchiectasis, are defined by airway inflammation, easily collapsible airways, expiratory circulation obstruction, and air trapping. In obstructive lung disease, inflammation and decreased elastic recoil cause increase airway resistance and lead to earlier little airway closure during expiration. The premature airway closure rises the volume that air kept in the lung at the end of expiration; this is described as air trapping. This trapped air outcomes in pulmonary hyperinflation. Because of this patients with obstructive lung an illness have elevated TLC, FRC, and also RV (Figure 1C). <4><5><6>

Body plethysmography returns a greater FRC in patients through obstructive lung an illness than those measure up by gas dilution techniques due to the fact that it includes both well-ventilated and also poorly ventilated locations of the lung. RV is normally the an initial volume to increase in obstructive lung an illness and have the right to be a good measure to evaluate early disease states.

The RV/TLC ratio is provided as a measure of resting pulmonary hyperinflation in patients v COPD. In a study by Shin et al., and also elevated RC/TLC ratio was displayed to it is in a significant risk aspect for all-cause mortality in COPD patients. <7>

Restrictive Lung condition (RLD)

Restrictive lung diseases are a result of processes that limit pulmonary expansion. The restriction have the right to be regarded intrinsic illness such together pulmonary fibrosis and also sarcoidosis, or extrinsic processes favor kyphosis and also obesity. In one of two people case, the an outcome is minimal expansion, lessened lung volumes, and also inadequate ventilation. TLC, FRC, and RV will certainly all be lessened in limit lung disease.

The results of obesity on lung duty are a growing concern as the prevalence and severity of excessive weight increase. Researches have shown that increasing body mass table of contents (BMI) correlates with lower VC, TLC, and RV, but that this values stay within common limits. Far-ranging decreases in FRC and also ERV are seen as BMI rises to the extent that FRC philosophies RV. <8><9><10>       


An interesting clinical use for residual volume is used during post-mortem autopsies of drowning victims. The residual volume of wait in the lungs can only it is in removed if that is replaced by another substance. In the instance of drowning victims, water will change the residual wait in the lungs. Throughout autopsies, clinical examiners can clamp the trachea and also submerge the lung in water. If the lung sink, no residual wait remains, so the is likely the person drowned after ~ inhaling large amounts that water. However, if the lung float, the residual volume of air stays in the lungs. The residual volume was not replaced by water, so the is likely the human died prior to entering the water.

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A) typical lung volumes and capacities B) Lung pressure at forceful expiration C)Typical transforms in lung volumes watched in restrictive and obstructive lung disease. Added by Lutfi, 2017; creative Commons Attribution 4.0 worldwide License ( (more...)

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