Journal of Applied Physiology

Effect of posture on the single-breath oxygen test in normal subjects

D. A. Cortese, J. R. Rodarte, K. Rehder, R. E. Hyatt


The effect of posture on phase III (alveolar nitrogen plateau) and phase IV (closing capacity) of the single-breath oxygen test was examined in 10 normal people. In part 1 of the study, subjects inspired and expired in the standing, supine, prone, and right lateral decubitus positions; there was no effect of posture on phase IV but slopes of phase III were higher when subjects were in the supine and lateral positions. In part 2, subjects inspired in the standing position and expired in one of the recumbent positions. Phase IV occurred infrequently except in the prone position (6 of 10 subj); slopes of phase III in part 2 were not consistently altered by changing posture. It is difficult to explain the failure of posture to alter phase IV solely on a model requiring a linear gradient of pleural pressure. The slope of phase III appears to depend more on the emptying patterns of small regions with widely varying volume-to-ventilation ratios than on gravity-dependent sequences of emptying. Finally, the data suggest a considerable similarity between the upright and prone positions in terms of lung filling and emptying.