Journal of Applied Physiology


To investigate the role of airflow limitation on the increase of end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) during bronchoconstriction, nine stable asthmatic subjects and seven healthy subjects were challenged with inhaled methacholine (MCh). Changes in airway caliber were assessed by using forced expiratory volume in 1 s, partial forced expiratory flow at 50% of control forced vital capacity, and specific airway conductance. To detect airflow limitation, tidal flow-volume curves were superimposed on partial forced flow-volume curves at absolute lung volume. The electromyogram of the diaphragm was recorded by surface electrodes in four asthmatic and four healthy subjects, and the electrical diaphragmatic activity (DIA) during expiration was expressed as a percentage of the duration of expiratory time. In 10 subjects (9 asthmatic and 1 healthy) the partial forced expiratory flow recorded after some MCh dose impinged on tidal expiratory flow recorded before MCh. When this occurred it was associated with an increase in EELV by 0.54 +/- 0.07 (SE) liter (P < 0.001), which was larger than that occurring when lower MCh doses (0.11 +/- 0.04 liter, P < 0.05) were used, and with a moderate increase in DIA of 15 +/- 2.5% (P < 0.01). Six healthy subjects did not increase EELV after MCh despite a significant degree of bronchoconstriction; in these subjects tidal expiratory flow never impinged on forced expiratory flow, and DIA never increased. These results suggest that hyperinflation during MCh-induced bronchoconstriction is triggered by dynamic compression of the airways and is associated with moderate increase of DIA during expiration.