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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1987 Sep;80(3 Pt 1):291-9.

A new method of inhalation challenge with propranolol: comparison with methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction and role of vagal nerve activity.


To establish a safe procedure for examining propranolol-induced bronchoconstriction, we have developed a new method for performing inhalation challenge with propranolol. Monitoring respiratory resistance during tidal breathing with continuous inhalation of propranolol in 1.5-fold increasing concentrations from 0.78 to 30 mg/ml for 1 minute at each concentration, we tested 43 subjects with stable asthma and 10 normal subjects. We also compared bronchial responsiveness with responsiveness to inhaled methacholine on separate days. In addition, to determine the role of vagal nerve activity in propranolol-induced bronchoconstriction, we studied the effect of atropine. Inhaled propranolol caused dose-related bronchoconstriction in all subjects with asthma but not in normal subjects. None of the subjects suffered severe asthmatic attack during the test, which was performed in 15 minutes or less. The minimum cumulative dose of methacholine and of propranolol, at the point where respiratory conductance began to decrease, was not significantly correlated. Increased respiratory resistance was reversed by atropine in 70% of the subjects with asthma with marked individual differences. These data suggest that, although in most subjects with asthma, vagal nerve activity contributes in varying degree to bronchoconstriction, other constricting factors may contribute in the remaining subjects. It is also suggested that the mechanism of bronchial response to propranolol differs from that of the nonspecific airway reactivity estimated by methacholine challenge.

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