Lung compliance is generally considered to represent a blend of surface and tissue forces, and changes in compliance in vivo are commonly used to indicate changes in surface forces. There are, however, theoretical arguments that would allow contraction of airway smooth muscle to affect substantially the elasticity of the lung. In the present study we evaluated the role of conducting airway contraction on lung compliance in vivo by infusing methacholine (MCh) at a constant rate into the bronchial circulation. With a steady-state MCh infusion of 2.4 μg/min into the bronchial perfusate (perfusate concentration = 0.7 μM), there was an approximate doubling of lung resistance and a 50% fall in dynamic compliance. There were also significant decreases in chord compliance measured from the quasi-static pressure-volume curves and in total lung capacity and residual volume. When the same infusion rate was administered into the pulmonary artery, no changes in lung mechanics were observed. These results indicate that the conducting airways may have a major role in regulating lung elasticity. This linkage between airway contraction and lung compliance may account for the common observation that pharmacological challenges given to the lung usually result in similar changes in lung compliance and airway conductance. Our results also suggest the possibility that the lung tissue resistance, which dominates the measurement of lung resistance in many species, might in fact reflect the physical properties of conducting airways.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)