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Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2004;17(6):377-81.

Laryngeal inputs in defensive airway reflexes in humans.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, 1-8-1 Inohanacho, chuo-ku, 260 8670 Chiba, Japan.


Stimulation of laryngeal receptors is the natural starting point of defensive airway reflexes including the cough reflex, expiration reflex, spasmodic panting, and apnoea with laryngospasm. Although several different types of laryngeal receptors have been reported, the laryngeal irritant receptors are considered to play the most essential role in elicitation of defensive airway reflexes. Based on the knowledge that the laryngeal irritant receptors are stimulated by water solutions lacking chloride anions, we have developed an experimental method to elicit defensive airway reflexes with a direct instillation of distilled water onto the laryngeal mucosa in humans. Using this experimental method, we studied the characteristics of defensive airway reflexes in lightly anaesthetized patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA). The reflex responses to water stimulation observed in these patients were characterized by apnoea with laryngospasm while the cough reflex was never elicited. Endoscopic images of the larynx in these patients were also characterized by laryngeal oedema. Considering the pathological changes occurring in the central nervous system and the laryngeal mucosa, it is possible that the defensive airway reflexes may be modified by central and/or peripheral mechanisms in patients with MSA.

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