Vital Capacity


Article Author:
Sharoon David


Article Editor:
Sandeep Sharma


Editors In Chief:
Kranthi Sitammagari
Mayank Singhal


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Erin Hughes
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Hussain Sajjad
Steve Bhimji
Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Beenish Sohail
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes


Updated:
4/15/2019 1:08:58 PM

Definition/Introduction

The volume of air occupying the lungs at different phases of the respiratory cycle subdivides into four volumes and four capacities. The four lung volumes are inspiratory reserve volume (IRV), expiratory reserve volume (ERV), tidal volume (V), and residual volume (RV), while the four lung capacities include total lung capacity (TLC), vital capacity (VC), inspiratory capacity (IC), and functional residual capacity (FRC).[1]

Vital capacity (VC) refers to the maximal volume of air that can be expired following maximum inspiration. It is the total of tidal volume, inspiratory reserve volume, and expiratory reserve volume (VC = V + IRV + ERV).[2] Vital capacity may be measured as inspiratory vital capacity (IVC), slow vital capacity (SVC), or forced vital capacity (FVC). The FVC is similar to VC, but it is measured as the patient exhales with maximum speed and effort.[3][4]

Issues of Concern

The vital capacity can be measured using a wet or regular spirometer.[5][1] The vital capacity of a typical adult is between 3 and 5 liters. Factors that affect a person’s vital capacity include age, sex, height, weight, and ethnicity. For instance, the residual volume and the functional residual capacity increase with age, resulting in a decrease in the vital capacity. Vital capacity has been found to increase with an increase in the height of a person, whereas, an increasing body mass index (BMI) is shown to correlate with a lower vital capacity.[2]

Clinical Significance

Pulmonary function tests aid in diagnosis, quantification of functional impairment, and monitoring of treatment or progression of a disease. The measurement of lung volumes and lung capacities is an integral part of pulmonary function testing.[6]

The vital capacity may assist in the diagnosis of underlying lung disease. It may also assist in differentiating between the various causes of lung disease. In obstructive lung diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, the vital capacity is usually normal or only slightly reduced, whereas, in restrictive lung diseases, like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a decrease in the vital capacity is seen. The vital capacity remains unchanged during pregnancy due to increased circumference of the rib cage.[3][7]

The measurement of vital capacity can also help determine the severity of involvement of respiratory muscles in neuromuscular disease. It can guide treatment decisions in patients with myasthenic crisis and Guillain-Barre syndrome.[8]


  • Image 6004 Not availableImage 6004 Not available
    Contributed by Lutfi MF. The physiological basis and clinical significance of lung volume measurements. Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine. 2017;12:3. (CC by 4.0; Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)
Attributed To: Contributed by Lutfi MF. The physiological basis and clinical significance of lung volume measurements. Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine. 2017;12:3. (CC by 4.0; Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

Interested in Participating?

We are looking for contributors to author, edit, and peer review our vast library of review articles and multiple choice questions. In as little as 2-3 hours you can make a significant contribution to your specialty. In return for a small amount of your time, you will receive free access to all content and you will be published as an author or editor in eBooks, apps, online CME/CE activities, and an online Learning Management System for students, teachers, and program directors that allows access to review materials in over 500 specialties.

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor

This is an academic project designed to provide inexpensive peer-reviewed Apps, eBooks, and very soon an online CME/CE system to help students identify weaknesses and improve knowledge. We would like you to consider being an author or editor. Please click here to learn more. Thank you for you for your interest, the StatPearls Publishing Editorial Team.

Vital Capacity - Questions

Take a quiz of the questions on this article.

Take Quiz
A 52-year-old man has an inspiratory reserve volume of 3.0 L, an expiratory reserve volume of 1.0 L, and a tidal volume of 0.5 L. What is the vital capacity?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
Which of the following pulmonary function testing parameters may show a slight decrease in a patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 17-year-old with a history of asthma presents to the emergency department with complaints of severe dyspnea and wheezing for the last two days. The patient reports having a recent upper respiratory infection. Her vitals are stable, and the examination is normal except for bilateral wheezing noted on auscultation of the lungs. Which of the following equations best describes the pulmonary function testing parameter that may be slightly reduced in this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
What is the term for the total quantity of air that can be expelled from the lungs following a maximal inspiration?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 32-year-old 30-week pregnant female presents to the clinic for evaluation of shortness of breath. After a detailed history and complete physical examination, pulmonary function tests are considered. Which of the following lung volumes is least likely to change during pregnancy?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 17-year-old woman presents to the emergency department with a history of progressively worsening wheezing and shortness of breath for the past three days. The symptoms started following an upper respiratory tract infection. She is afebrile, has a respiratory rate of 26 breaths/min, and a heart rate of 114 beats/min. Auscultation reveals evidence of wheezing bilaterally, but no crackles are noticed. The patient reports that she has had similar episodes in the past and sometimes uses an inhaler for her symptoms. Which of the following may be slightly decreased in this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 65-year-old man presents to the clinic with complaints of dry cough and dyspnea on exertion for the last six months. Chest x-ray reveals small irregular nodular opacities in the upper lobes of the lungs. The patient is a chronic smoker with a 20 pack-year history of smoking cigarettes and has been working as a coal miner for almost 35 years. How would the vital capacity (VC) of the lungs most likely be affected in this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up
A 17-year-old woman has been admitted to the hospital for the management of left lower lobe pneumonia. The patient gives a longstanding history of chronic cough with copious, foul-smelling sputum that has been occurring daily for the past several years. She has had recurrent hospital admissions due to pneumonia in the past. Chest x-ray reveals a “tram-track” appearance. Which of the following may most likely be present in this patient?



Click Your Answer Below


Would you like to access teaching points and more information on this topic?

Improve Content - Become an Author or Editor and get free access to the entire database, free eBooks, as well as free CME/CE as it becomes available. If interested, please click on "Sign Up" to register.

Purchase- Want immediate access to questions, answers, and teaching points? They can be purchased above at Apps and eBooks.


Sign Up

Vital Capacity - References

References

van Gaal SC,English SW,Bourque PRJ,Zwicker JC, Pulmonary Function Testing in Elderly Patients Treated for a Myasthenia Gravis Exacerbation. The Neurohospitalist. 2019 Apr;     [PubMed]
Zimmermann SC,Tonga KO,Thamrin C, Dismantling airway disease with the use of new pulmonary function indices. European respiratory review : an official journal of the European Respiratory Society. 2019 Mar 31;     [PubMed]
Hallett S,Ashurst JV, Physiology, Tidal Volume 2019 Jan;     [PubMed]
Ponce MC,Sharma S, Pulmonary Function Tests 2019 Jan;     [PubMed]
Krishna R,Ullah S, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 2019 Jan;     [PubMed]
Huprikar NA,Skabelund AJ,Bedsole VG,Sjulin TJ,Karandikar AV,Aden JK,Morris MJ, Comparison of the Forced and Slow Vital Capacity Maneuvers in Defining Airway Obstruction. Respiratory care. 2019 Mar 19;     [PubMed]
Testing your lungs: spirometry. Breathe (Sheffield, England). 2018 Sep;     [PubMed]
Lofrese JJ,Lappin SL, Physiology, Residual Volume 2019 Jan;     [PubMed]

Disclaimer

The intent of StatPearls is to provide practice questions and explanations to assist you in identifying and resolving knowledge deficits. These questions and explanations are not intended to be a source of the knowledge base of all of medicine, nor is it intended to be a board or certification review of PA-Hospital Medicine. The authors or editors do not warrant the information is complete or accurate. The reader is encouraged to verify each answer and explanation in several references. All drug indications and dosages should be verified before administration.

StatPearls offers the most comprehensive database of free multiple-choice questions with explanations and short review chapters ever developed. This system helps physicians, medical students, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health professionals identify education deficits and learn new concepts. StatPearls is not a board or certification review system for PA-Hospital Medicine, it is a learning system that you can use to help improve your knowledge base of medicine for life-long learning. StatPearls will help you identify your weaknesses so that when you are ready to study for a board or certification exam in PA-Hospital Medicine, you will already be prepared.

Our content is updated continuously through a multi-step peer review process that will help you be prepared and review for a thorough knowledge of PA-Hospital Medicine. When it is time for the PA-Hospital Medicine board and certification exam, you will already be ready. Besides online study quizzes, we also publish our peer-reviewed content in eBooks and mobile Apps. We also offer inexpensive CME/CE, so our content can be used to attain education credits while you study PA-Hospital Medicine.