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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994 May;149(5):1132-7.

Airway mucosal blood flow in humans. Response to adrenergic agonists.

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Pulmonary Division, University of Miami School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, Florida.

Erratum in

  • Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1995 Feb;151(2 Pt 1):578.


We measured the uptake of the soluble inert gas dimethyl ether (DME) from a segment of the conducting airways to estimate mucosal blood flow (Qaw) noninvasively. The subjects inhaled, from the functional residual capacity position, a 300-ml gas mixture containing 35% DME, 8% helium, 35% oxygen, and the balance nitrogen; they held their breath for 5 s and then exhaled into a spirometer. During exhalation, the instantaneous concentrations of DME and helium were recorded together with expired gas volume. The maneuver was repeated with breathhold times of 5, 10, 15, and 20 s. We calculated Qaw using the time-dependent decrease in DME concentration in relation to the helium concentration in an expired volume fraction between 80 and 130 ml (representing an anatomic dead-space segment distal to the glottis) and the mean DME concentration. In 10 healthy nonsmokers, mean (+/- SE) Qaw was 8.0 +/- 1.3 ml/min, or 8 +/- 2 microliters/min/cm2 mucosal surface. We obtained a value of 12 +/- 3 microliters/min/cm2 in a validation experiment in sheep. Inhaled methoxamine (nebulized dose 10 mg) caused a 65 +/- 19% decrease (p < 0.05), and albuterol (nebulized dose 2.5 mg) a 92 +/- 17% increase (p < 0.05), in mean Qaw in seven subjects, with the maximum changes occurring immediately or 15 min postinhalation. We conclude that the DME uptake method is an acceptable noninvasive means of estimating airway mucosal blood flow in humans and its modification by vasoactive substances.

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