The compliance of the total respiratory system and its components was studied in 24 normal and 12 obese spontaneously breathing unanesthetized subjects. The mean compliance of the total respiratory system was .119 l/cm H2O in normal individuals, but was .052 l/cm H2O in obese subjects. The difference indicated an increased elastic resistance to distention. The compliance of the lung in obese individuals was not different from that of the normals. The compliance of the chest wall was .224 l/cm H2O in normal subjects and was .077 l/cm H2O in obese individuals. In contrast to normal subjects, total respiratory compliance was markedly reduced by recumbency in obese individuals. This was entirely due to a further increase in the resistance of the chest wall. A significant correlation was demonstrated between vital capacity and total respiratory compliance in normal and obese subjects. It has been estimated that of the increase in the mechanical work of breathing in obesity is due to elastic work done on the chest wall.
Submitted on November 2, 1959
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