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Respir Physiol. 1997 Jul;109(1):81-93.

In vivo determination of surface tension in the horse trachea and in vitro model studies.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Inselspital, Berne, Switzerland.


We measured the surface tension in the trachea of the non-anaesthetised horse from the spreading behaviour of fluid drops, using videotracheoscopy. To do this, we placed small oil drops onto the tracheal wall with a thin Teflon tubing inserted into a videocolonoscope used in humans. Either 5 ml of saline (control) or 5 ml of bovine lipid extract surfactant (BLES) at 4 mg/ml were administered. Tracheal surface tension was 31.9 +/- 0.54 mN/m (Mean +/- SEM, n = 30) in the control experiments and 24.5 +/- 0.51 mN/m (Mean +/- SEM, n = 21) in the entire trachea after the administration of BLES. These values were determined from calibration curves relating film surface tension to the relative diameter of test fluid droplets. In the calibration experiments, the test fluid droplets were placed onto a surfactant film at various surface tensions in either a modified Langmuir-Wilhelmy balance or a captive bubble surfactometer. The spreading behaviour of a given test fluid droplet in the model studies did not only depend on the film surface tension but also on the thickness of the aqueous layer below the surfactant film. Hence, the computed surface tensions in the trachea depend on the choice of which in vitro model is applied.

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