Maximal Respiratory Pressures

Last Updated: January 7, 2019

Definition - What does Maximal Respiratory Pressures mean?

Maximal respiratory pressures are a clinical methodology that incorporates maximal expiratory pressure (MEP) and maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) as primary testing modalities used to evaluate vital capacity (total lung volume) in patients. The application of MEP and/or MIP techniques serves as a quantitative assessment in diagnosing, monitoring, and tracking respiratory muscle weakness that may suggest neuromuscular conditions. Maximal respiratory pressures represents a useful approach in targeting specific muscles and their functionality corresponding to MEP and/or MIP findings. For instance, respiratory muscle weakness can be attributed to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but it can also point to a sedentary lifestyle where lung tissue lacks elasticity.

WorkplaceTesting explains Maximal Respiratory Pressures

Although, maximal respiratory pressure techniques (MEP and/or MIP) are beneficial, many clinicians utilize a battery of supplemental testing procedures including forced vital capacity (FVC) and vital capacity (VC) to establish more accurate reports. Patients use a handheld pressure gauge device fitted with a mouthpiece to inspire (breathe in) and/or expire (breathe out) at a forceful rate coinciding to total lung volume capacity. Clinicians interpret the test results, comparing metrical (predicted) values to the actual values to distinguish between normal and abnormal ranges. In some cases, deviations might turn up on a readout that can lead to false positives of respiratory muscle weakness in an otherwise healthy individual.

To avoid disparities, clinicians must provide detailed instructions about proper technique covering, in particular, exclusive use of the lungs when performing complete exhalation and inhalation demonstrations. Respiratory muscle weakness encompasses a broad number of biological and/or pathological factors such as age, gender, poor diet/malnutrition, obesity, physical inactivity, and multiple neuromuscular diseases, complicating diagnostic examinations. Because MEP and MIP test ranges fluctuate, clinicians refer to the lower limit of normal (LLN) as a baseline threshold, or cut-off, value to measure respiratory muscle weakness.

Maximal respiratory pressures serve as a clinical standard in observing both MEP and MIP intramuscular activity and physiology as it relates to regular and irregular breathing patterns. Consistent testing is necessary throughout life since variable measurements generally reflects the distinct state of health of individuals.

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