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Chronic obstructive lesions of the upper airways such as post-traumatic strictures, bilateral vocal cord paralysis and chronic inflammatory foci are uncommon. The functional assessment of the severity and character of an obstruction is important both for diagnosis and management, and may also allow evaluation of the efficacy of medical and surgical treatment. There are limitations of simple spirometric pulmonary function tests, which are evident when assessing upper airways obstruction. The flow volume loop is a graphic recording of airflow during maximal respiration and expiration at different lung volumes, and may be affected in a characteristic way by alterations in the airway resistance. Three unusual cases of chronic upper airway obstruction are presented which illustrate the value of the flow volume loop examination in their management.