We measured resting pulmonary gas exchange in eight subjects exposed to 9 or 14 days of microgravity (microG) during two Spacelab flights. Compared with preflight standing measurements, microG resulted in a significant reduction in tidal volume (15%) but an increase in respiratory frequency (9%). The increased frequency was caused chiefly by a reduction in expiratory time (10%), with a smaller decrease in inspiratory time (4%). Anatomic dead space (VDa) in microG was between preflight standing and supine values, consistent with the known changes in functional residual capacity. Physiological dead space (VDB) decreased in microG, and alveolar dead space (VDB-VDa) was significantly less in microG than in preflight standing (-30%) or supine (-15%), consistent with a more uniform topographic distribution of blood flow. The net result was that, although total ventilation fell, alveolar ventilation was unchanged in microG compared with standing in normal gravity (1 G). Expired vital capacity was increased (6%) compared with standing but only after the first few days of exposure to microG. There were no significant changes in O2 uptake, CO2 output, or end-tidal PO2 in microG compared with standing in 1 G. End-tidal PCO2 was unchanged on the 9-day flight but increased by 4.5 Torr on the 14-day flight where the PCO2 of the spacecraft atmosphere increased by 1–3 Torr. Cardiogenic oscillations in expired O2 and CO2 demonstrated the presence of residual ventilation-perfusion ratio (VA/Q) inequality. In addition, the change in intrabreath VA/Q during phase III of a long expiration was the same in microG as in preflight standing, indicating persisting VA/Q inequality and suggesting that during this portion of a prolonged exhalation the inequality in 1 G was not predominantly on a gravitationally induced topographic basis. However, the changes in PCO2 and VA/Q at the end of expiration after airway closure were consistent with a more uniform topographic distribution of gas exchange.
- Copyright © 1995 the American Physiological Society