Lung function monitoring in COPD…

If you have COPD, it’s worth monitoring your lung function daily, at home, rather than relying on an annual assessment by a practise nurse at your GP’s surgery.

A couple of years ago, I bought a digital peak flow meter as, unlike manual ones, they keep an internal record (a PFM, by the way, measures how well my lungs are functioning which, mostly, is not very). Anyway, I found one which looked good, and did what I wanted – and then I realised that it was a sealed unit, and the battery couldn’t be replaced.

Now then, this thing costs upwards of £20 – very upwards in some cases; I’ve seen it on sale for over £40 – the average price seems to be about £27 and, with average use (2 tests a day), the battery is supposed to be good for two years. I don’t find that at all satisfactory – £27 (plus postage, of course), compared to a couple of pounds for a battery – even a lithium battery doesn’t cost much more, if you shop around. So I asked why the battery wasn’t replaceable.

The reply said that the case was sealed so it could be sterilised. Er, how? Heat sterilisation is likely to trash the battery and the electronics, and dunking it in sterilising fluid would probably not do it much good either, bearing in mind that it has a hole in one end, into which you blow.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy one. I found a similar device, which has replaceable batteries and does the same job (i.e., measures those lung functions that I need measuring). It can’t be sterilised, but as I’ve no intention of sharing it, it doesn’t much matter.

This is the gizmo I’m getting, the Piko-1:-


For those of you who need these things, it measures PEF, aka PF, and FEV1, records 96 measurements and costs £14.92 (if you’re VAT-exempt) and is available here .

You can get a basic, mechanical Peak Flow meter on prescription, but if you do, make sure it’s EU certified (older versions, some of which could be inaccurate, should no longer be on sale anyway). By the way, if any of you are using the older Wright Peak Flow Meter (if it’s current it’ll have a yellow scale), chuck it in the bin. I  complained for many years, to my GP, that it was inaccurate, to no avail (wtf do I know, I’m only the patient!**). However, when they applied for EU certification, they were made to recalibrate it, reducing readings by about 11%, which was close enough to my claimed error of 10% to vindicate me. Not that my GP gave a shit…

My arsenal of COPD-related monitoring equipment also includes a pulse oximeter and a blood pressure monitor, which I’ll cover shortly.

** WTF I know, incidentally, is a hell of a lot more than most GPs when it comes to the management of my COPD. Never lose sight of the word General in GP – most simply don’t have detailed, in-depth knowledge. That’s not a criticism, they can’t possibly know everything about everything – that’s what consultants are for.

I firmly believe that people who are chronically sick have a duty to themselves to know as much about their illness, and its management, as their doctors. Seriously – treatment should be undertaken as a partnership based on mutual knowledge, not imposed upon the abysmally ignorant, though I concede that, more often than not, the latter is the case.