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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 May;88(5):1859-69.

Respiratory sensation during chest wall restriction and dead space loading in exercising men.

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Respiratory Investigation Unit, Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 2V7.


We mimicked important mechanical and ventilatory aspects of restrictive lung disorders by employing chest wall strapping (CWS) and dead space loading (DS) in normal subjects to gain mechanistic insights into dyspnea causation and exercise limitation. We hypothesized that thoracic restriction with increased ventilatory stimulation would evoke exertional dyspnea that was similar in nature to that experienced in such disorders. Twelve healthy young men [28 +/- 2 (SE) yr of age] completed pulmonary function tests and maximal cycle exercise tests under four conditions, in randomized order: 1) control, 2) CWS to 60% of vital capacity, 3) added DS of 600 ml, and 4) CWS + DS. Measurements during exercise included cardiorespiratory parameters, esophageal pressure, and Borg scale ratings of dyspnea. Compared with control, CWS significantly reduced the tidal volume response to exercise, increased dyspnea intensity at any given work rate or ventilation, and thus limited exercise performance. DS stimulated ventilation but had minimal effects on dyspnea and exercise performance. Adding DS to CWS further increased dyspnea by 1.7 +/- 0.6 standardized Borg units (P = 0.012) and decreased exercise performance (total work) by 21 +/- 6% (P = 0.003) over CWS alone. Across conditions, increased dyspnea intensity correlated best with decreased resting inspiratory reserve volume (r = -0.63, P < 0.0005). Dyspnea during CWS was described primarily as "inspiratory difficulty" and "unsatisfied inspiration," similar to restrictive disorders. In conclusion, severe dyspnea and exercise intolerance were provoked in healthy normal subjects when tidal volume responses were constrained in the face of increased ventilatory drive during exercise.

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