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Eur Respir J. 2005 Oct;26(4):609-15.

Long-term clearance from small airways decreases with age.

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  • 1Dept of Public Health Science, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The prevalence of respiratory symptoms increases with age. Age has been found to be negatively associated with large airway clearance. The small airways region is considered important for development of airway disease. Clearance after the first 24 h was studied in 46 healthy subjects with a wide age distribution, (mean 42, range 19-81 yrs). All subjects inhaled monodisperse 6 microm Teflon particles labelled with 111In, with an extremely slow inhalation flow (0.05 L.s-1). The particles were mainly deposited in the small conducting airways. Lung retention was measured at 0 and 24 h, and at 7, 14 and 21 days after inhalation. Significant relationships were found for the individual 24 h "large" airway clearance in per cent of initial lung deposition with age, forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity. Age was negatively associated with "small" airway clearance after 24 h as estimated at 2, 7, 14 and 21 days. Using stepwise linear regression only age remained significantly associated to clearance. In conclusion, small airway clearance over 21 days was found to decrease with age. This might be one factor associated with the high prevalence of respiratory symptoms associated among the elderly.

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