October 12, 2023
Written by

Luke Marshall, PhD

Spirometric Lung Age as a Tool in Smoking Cessation Programs

Spirometry has long been an essential diagnostic tool in the field of pulmonology, providing quantitative data on lung function. The concept of 'spirometric lung age' emerged as a means of providing patients with an understandable metric of their lung function relative to their chronological age. In the context of smoking cessation, conveying a patient's lung age can serve as a powerful motivator for change. This article delves into the value of spirometric lung age in smoking cessation interventions and its potential benefits in a clinical setting.

Introduction to Spirometric Lung Age

Spirometric lung age is derived from the comparison between the patient's actual lung function and the expected lung function of someone of the same age with normal lung health. For instance, a 40-year-old smoker might have the lung function comparable to that of a 60-year-old non-smoker, translating to a spirometric lung age of 60 years.

Historical Context

The notion of spirometric lung age was first introduced by Harris and Temple in their seminal paper. They proposed that presenting patients with their 'lung age' could be more impactful than just providing them with abstract spirometric values.

Reference: Harris JE, Temple W. Spirometric lung age as a motivational tool in smoking cessation. Prev Med. 1985; 14(5):655-662 [Link].
Lung Age in Practice

What does it mean to use a patients lung age in the day-to-day realities of a smoking cessation program?

While it is best practice to use FEV1, FVC and their ratio and their predictive values when assessing the severity of a patients' lung disease, those numbers can be very esoteric to a lay person. This is especially true when trying to create the motivation for behavior change (like quitting tobacco use), which is already notoriously difficult.

However, when having a conversation with, for example, a 55 year old smoker with a 30 pack-year history, and his lung age is 78... "Your lung age is 78" is a much more meaningful and tangible statement to that patient than "Your FEV1 is <70% of predicted," when encouraging that patient to quit smoking.

Efficacy in Smoking Cessation Programs

Several studies have investigated the efficacy of spirometric lung age in motivating smokers to quit. The key findings include:

  • Immediate Impact: Presenting smokers with their spirometric lung age often leads to immediate behavioral intentions to quit smoking.
  • Enhanced Perception: It aids in translating the often intangible risks of smoking into a tangible, personalized metric.
  • Sustained Motivation: Regular follow-ups with spirometric lung age assessments can provide patients with a clear picture of their progress, further motivating them to stay smoke-free.
Reference: Parkes G, Greenhalgh T, Griffin M, Dent R. Effect on smoking quit rate of telling patients their lung age: the Step2quit randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;336(7644):598-600. [Link]
Incorporating Spirometric Lung Age in Clinical Practice

To best leverage the benefits of spirometric lung age is important to consider the following:

  • Routine Assessment: Consider incorporating lung age assessments into routine check-ups for smokers.
  • Counseling: Use the results as a conversation starter about the risks of continued smoking and the benefits of cessation.
  • Follow-up: Regularly reassess lung age to track progress and reinforce motivation.

Spirometric lung age can be a valuable tool in the arsenal of smoking cessation programs. By providing a tangible and personalized metric, it can bridge the gap between abstract health risks and real-world implications, thereby motivating and empowering patients to take control of their health.

VitalFlo includes Lung Age as a standard feature in our proactive respiratory monitoring platform. Reach out to learn more today!

Written by

Luke Marshall, PhD