A digital computing technique was used to extract continuous calculations of average alveolar pressure and airway resistance from body plethysmographic measurements during forced inspiratory and expiratory vital capacity maneuvers and tidal breathing in human subjects. Derived alveolar pressures were similar to those obtained using an interrupter technique (linear regression slope, 0.99 ± 0.02; r = 0.98) and by comparison with esophageal pressure measurements. Studies in normal subjects revealed a characteristic pattern of increasing airway resistance throughout the expiratory phases of maximal and submaximal respiratory maneuvers, with maximal resistance of 33 to 110 cm H2O/L/s at low lung volumes during forced vital capacities. In contrast, respiratory resistance remained low and constant throughout maximal and submaximal inspiratory maneuvers. Patients with COPD showed substantially higher inspiratory and expiratory resistances. In three patients with flow-volume loops suggestive of variable extrathoracic upper airway obstruction, measurements of alveolar pressure and airway resistance made it clear that two of the patients had upper airway obstruction, whereas the other was exerting an inadequate effort. We conclude that this noninvasive technique provides valid estimates of alveolar pressure and airway resistance continuously throughout both phases of the respiratory cycle over a wide range of volumes and flow rates. It may prove to be useful in the assessment of effort and airway obstruction in patients with a variety of pulmonary conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine