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Eur Respir J. 1995 May;8(5):807-14.

Respiratory muscle activity and oxygenation during sleep in patients with muscle weakness.

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  • 1Dept. of Respiratory Medicine, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.


Patients with respiratory muscle weakness show nocturnal hypoventilation, with oxygen desaturation particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, but evidence in individuals with isolated bilateral diaphragmatic paresis (BDP) is conflicting. The effect of sleep on relative activity of the different respiratory muscles of such patients and, consequently, the precise mechanisms causing desaturation have not been clarified. We have studied eight patients, four with generalized muscle weakness and four with isolated BDP during nocturnal sleep with measurements including oxygen saturation and surface electromyographic (EMG) activity of various respiratory muscle groups. Nocturnal oxygenation correlated inversely with postural fall in vital capacity, an index of diaphragmatic strength. During REM sleep, hypopnoea and desaturation occurred particularly during periods of rapid eye movements (phasic REM sleep). In most subjects, such events were "central" in type and associated with marked suppression of intercostal muscle activity, but two subjects had recurrent desaturation due to "obstructive" hypopnoea and/or apnoea. Expiratory activity of the external oblique muscle was present whilst awake and during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep in seven of the eight subjects in the semirecumbent posture. This probably represents an "accessory inspiratory" effect, which aids passive caudal diaphragmatic motion as the abdominal muscles relax at the onset of inspiration. Expiratory abdominal muscle activity was suppressed in phasic REM sleep, suggesting that loss of this "accessory inspiratory" effect may contribute to "central" hypopnoea. We conclude that, in patients with muscle weakness, nocturnal oxygenation correlates with diaphragmatic strength.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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