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Exp Lung Res. 1998 Mar-Apr;24(2):149-58.

Effect of adrenergic stimulation on clearance from small ciliated airways in healthy subjects.

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Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge University Hospital, Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden.


Mucociliary transport is an important clearance mechanism of larger airways, but in the smallest ciliated airways (bronchioles) it may be less effective. The present study aimed at investigating whether clearance from the bronchioles in subjects with healthy airways was stimulated by an adrenergic agonist (terbutaline sulphate). Tracheobronchial clearance was studied twice in 10 healthy subjects after inhalation of 6-micron (aerodynamic diameter) monodisperse Teflon particles labeled with 111In. At one exposure, oral treatment with terbutaline sulphate, known to stimulate clearance in large airways, began immediately after inhalation of the particles. The other exposure was a control measurement. The particles were inhaled at an extremely slow flow, 0.05 L/s, which gave deposition mainly in the small ciliated airways (bronchioles). Lung retention was measured at 0, 24, 48, and 72 h. Clearance was significant every 24 h for both exposures (p < .05, two-tailed paired t-test), with similar fractions of retained particles at all time points. During treatment with terbutaline sulphate, the subjects' pulse rates tended to be higher, but clearance rates did not increase. We found, as expected, no significant correlation between lung retention and lung function in either exposure. This study shows that an adrenergic agonist does not significantly influence overall clearance from the bronchiolar region in healthy subjects. This suggests that mucociliary transport does not significantly contribute to clearance from the smallest ciliated airways. Other mechanisms may be more important for the transportation of mucus from these airways.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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