The child breathes through a face mask while watching a favorite video for about 10 to 15 minutes. The mask is connected to a flow meter which measures how much air goes in and out of the lungs with each breath and a gas analyzer. The air which is breathed by the child is a mixture of oxygen and a tiny amount of a 'tracer' gas called sulphur hexafluoride. This is a tracer and allows doctors to measure the efficiency of the lungs. Professor Janet Stocks and colleagues from the University College London, Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond St Hospital tested the new device on 40 pre-school children with cystic fibrosis and around 40 children with healthy lungs.
The technique identified abnormalities in 73% of the young children with cystic fibrosis. This technique can be used to detect other lung diseases such as asthma and chronic lung disease in children. The advantage of this technique is that the children can be given appropriate treatment before irreversible lung damage has occurred. Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said that most of the adult lung disorders originate in their childhood and hence better ways of detecting and treating lung disease in early childhood brings relief to the children.