In a previous study of normal subjects exercising at sea level and simulated altitude, ventilation-perfusion (VA/Q) inequality and alveolar-end-capillary O2 diffusion limitation (DIFF) were found to increase on exercise at altitude, but at sea level the changes did not reach statistical significance. This paper reports additional measurements of VA/Q inequality and DIFF (at sea level and altitude) and also of pulmonary arterial pressure. This was to examine the hypothesis that VA/Q inequality is related to increased pulmonary arterial pressure. In a hypobaric chamber, eight normal subjects were exposed to barometric pressures of 752, 523, and 429 Torr (sea level, 10,000 ft, and 15,000 ft) in random order. At each altitude, inert and respiratory gas exchange and hemodynamic variables were studied at rest and during several levels of steady-state bicycle exercise. Multiple inert gas data from the previous and current studies were combined (after demonstrating no statistical difference between them) and showed increasing VA/Q inequality with sea level exercise (P = 0.02). Breathing 100% O2 did not reverse this increase. When O2 consumption exceeded about 2.7 1/min, evidence for DIFF at sea level was present (P = 0.01). VA/Q inequality and DIFF increased with exercise at altitude as found previously and was reversed by 100% O2 breathing. Indexes of VA/Q dispersion correlated well with mean pulmonary arterial pressure and also with minute ventilation. This study confirms the development of both VA/Q mismatch and DIFF in normal subjects during heavy exercise at sea level. However, the mechanism of increased VA/Q mismatch on exercise remains unclear due to the correlation with both ventilatory and circulatory variables and will require further study.
- Copyright © 1986 the American Physiological Society