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Residual volume (RV) is the volume of air remaining in the lungs after maximum forceful expiration. In other words, it is the volume of air that cannot be expelled, therefore bring about the alveoli to remain open at all times. The residual volume stays unadjusted regardmuch less of the lung volume at which expiration was began. Reference worths for residual volume are 1 to 1.2 L, yet these values are dependent on factors including age, sex, elevation, weight, and also physical activity levels.

The residual volume is a vital component of the full lung capacity (TLC) and the functional residual capacity (FRC). TLC is the total volume of the lungs at maximal inspiration which is around 6 L on average, though true values are dependent on the exact same factors that influence residual volume. FRC is the amount of air continuing to be in the lungs after a normal, physiologic expiration (Figure 1A). The TLC, FRC, and also RV are absolute lung volumes and cannot be measured straight through spiromeattempt. Instead, they should be calculated using instraight measurement approaches such as gas dilution or body plethysmography. Calculating the residual volume deserve to give an indication of lung physiology and pathology. <1><2><3>


The residual volume functions to keep the alveoli open also after maximum expiration. In healthy and balanced lungs, the air that provides up the residual volume is utilized for continuous gas exchange to take place in between breaths. Inspiration draws atmospheric oxygen right into the lungs to replenish the oxygen-depleted residual air for gas exchange in the alveoli.


Although breathing mechanics are complex, it is essential to remember that air will circulation from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas. Throughout tidal breapoint, the incentive and expiration at physiologic remainder, the volume of air entering and leaving the lungs is known as the tidal volume (TV). On tidal impetus, inspiratory muscle contraction boosts the volume of the chest bring about the intrapleural press (Ppl) to drop from -5 cm H2O to -8 cm H2O. The reduced Ppl reasons the alveolar pressure (Palv) to decrease 1 cm H2O below atmospheric pressure. As a result, air from the reasonably high-push setting flows into the low-press alveoli. Inspiration is an energetic procedure requiring the rhythmic contractivity of inspiratory muscles that occupational to expand the chest cavity. Tidal expiration is a passive process that works in reverse. The inspiratory muscles relax, decreasing the dimension of the chest cavity, and raising Ppl and also Palv. Once Palv is greater than atmospheric pressure, air flows out of the lungs. 

Residual volume deserve to be interpreted by examination of breathing that exceeds tidal quantities. Following maximal motivation, the volume of air that leaves the lungs during a maximal pressure expiration is known as the crucial capacity (VC). VC is composed of the tidal volume, expiratory reserve volume (ERV), and inspiratory reserve volume (IRV). The ERV is the volume of air that can be forcetotally exhaled after a normal relaxing expiration, leaving just the RV in the lungs. Forcecompletely exhaling the ERV is an active procedure requiring the contraction of expiratory muscles in the chest and abdoguys. This boosts Ppl and also Palv above atmospheric pressure. Due to the elastic recoil of the alveoli, the push inside of the alveoli stays higher than that of the pleura, and the alveoli remain open. The push inside the airmeans (Paw) progressively decreases as you move up from the alveoli to the trachea as an outcome of enhanced airmethod resistance. In sections of little, non-cartilaginous airways, pleural press is higher than airway push and causes a collapse of the airmeans (Figure 1B). The air that stays in the lungs after the collapse of all little airways is the residual volume.

Related Testing

Tbelow are no approaches to measure residual volume straight. Other lung quantities and also capacities need to initially be measured directly prior to RV have the right to be calculated. The initially step in calculating RV is to identify the FRC. Measurement of the FRC deserve to be done utilizing among the following 3 tests.

Helium Dilution Test

In this test, the patient inhales a recognized volume of air (V1) containing a well-known fraction of helium (FHe1) at end-expiration of tidal breapoint, where the volume of air left in the lungs is equal to FRC. A spirometer measures the fraction of helium after equilibration in the lungs (FHe2).

Nitrogen Washout

The nitrogen washout test makes use of the nitrogen that renders up 78% of atmospheric air. A patient breathes via a 2-means valve connected to 100% oxygen on motivation and also a arsenal spirometer on expiration. The spirometer actions the volume of air and also fraction of nitrogen expired via each breath. Once the fraction of nitrogen is below 1.5% for 3 consecutive breaths, the test is complete. The initial amount of nitrogen in the lungs need to be equal to the complete amount of nitrogen exhaled, and also hence the FRC can be calculated.

Body Plethysmography

Plethysmography is based upon Boyle’s legislation of gases. In a closed system at a constant temperature, the product of pressure and also volume of a well-known mass of gas is consistent. That is to say, push and also volume are inversely proportional.

To conduct the test, a patient is inserted inside an enclosed chamber and breathes via a spirometer that have the right to measure transforms in pressure and also volume. After a period of tidal breapoint, the spirometer is closed at end-expiration, and the patient breathes versus it. Changes in pressure at the mouthitem are taped. As the patient exhales, the volume of the thoracic cavity can be calculated by recording the readjust in pressure of the whole chamber. This test is the most specific measure of FRC, but likewise the most expensive.

Once the FRC has actually been measured using one of these 3 approaches, the expiratory reserve volume (ERV) and essential capacity (VC) are measured using conventional spirometry. Calculations of TV and also TLC have the right to be made using the measured FRC, ERV, and VC worths and the complying with equations:

Clinical Significance

Obstructive Lung Disease (OLD)

Obstructive lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary condition (COPD), asthma, and bronchiectasis, are identified by airmethod inflammation, quickly collapsible airways, expiratory circulation obstruction, and also air trapping. In obstructive lung condition, inflammation and also lessened elastic recoil reason boost airmeans resistance and also result in earlier little airway clocertain throughout expiration. The premature airmeans closure boosts the volume of air maintained in the lungs at the finish of expiration; this is described as air trapping. This trapped air results in pulmonary hyperinflation. Because of this patients with obstructive lung condition have elevated TLC, FRC, and RV (Figure 1C). <4><5><6>

Body plethysmography returns a greater FRC in patients via obstructive lung condition than those measured by gas dilution approaches because it has both well-ventilated and also poorly ventilated areas of the lung. RV is mostly the initially volume to rise in obstructive lung condition and also deserve to be a good measure to evaluate beforehand illness claims.

The RV/TLC ratio is provided as a meacertain of resting pulmonary hyperinflation in patients via COPD. In a examine by Shin et al., and also elevated RC/TLC proportion was shown to be a significant threat variable for all-cause mortality in COPD patients. <7>

Restrictive Lung Disease (RLD)

Restrictive lung illness are an outcome of procedures that restrict pulmonary expansion. The restriction have the right to be related to intrinsic diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis and also sarcoidosis, or extrinsic processes favor kyphosis and excessive weight. In either situation, the outcome is restricted development, diminished lung volumes, and insufficient ventilation. TLC, FRC, and also RV will all be decreased in restrictive lung illness.

The results of weight problems on lung attribute are a prospering issue as the pervasiveness and severity of excessive weight rise. Studies have actually presented that enhancing body mass index (BMI) correlates via lower VC, TLC, and RV, however that these values remajor within normal limits. Significant decreases in FRC and also ERV are seen as BMI boosts to the degree that FRC viewpoints RV. <8><9><10>       


An interesting clinical usage for residual volume is used during post-mortem autopsies of drowning victims. The residual volume of air in the lungs can only be removed if it is reinserted by one more substance. In the situation of drowning victims, water will relocation the residual air in the lungs. During autopsies, medical examiners have the right to clamp the trachea and also submerge the lungs in water. If the lungs sink, no residual air stays, so it is likely the person drowned after inhaling huge quantities of water. However, if the lungs float, the residual volume of air continues to be in the lungs. The residual volume was not replaced by water, so it is likely the perboy passed away before entering the water.

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A) Standard lung quantities and also capacities B) Lung pressures at forceful expiration C)Usual transforms in lung quantities viewed in restrictive and obstructive lung illness. Contributed by Lutfi, 2017; Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Internationwide License ( (even more...)

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