To characterize the effect of postnatal development on the viscoelastic behavior of the respiratory system, we quantified the amplitude and time course of stress relaxation in the lungs and chest wall of seven newborn and eight 8-wk-old anesthetized piglets. Stress relaxation was distinguished from other dissipative pressure losses by performing airway occlusions at various constant inspiratory flows and fitting the pressure decays that ensue during the occlusions to a double-exponential function. We found that the amplitude of stress relaxation related linearly to the increase in elastic recoil (and, by extension, in the volume) of the lungs, chest wall, and respiratory system during the inflations preceding the occlusions. On the average, the slope of this relationship was 38–44% lower in the 8-wk-old than in the newborn piglets for the lungs and was not different for the chest wall. The time course of stress relaxation, expressed as a time constant, was not influenced by age. Our results indicate that respiratory system viscoelasticity is sensitive to the geometric and structural changes experienced by the lungs during the period of rapid somatic growth that follow birth in most mammals.
- Copyright © 1992 the American Physiological Society