To investigate how pulmonary surfactant influences alveolar structure in vivo, we examined the alveolar surface area-to-lung volume (S/V) ratio of the lung parenchyma of a live dog by light-scattering stereology before and after saline lavage. We measured the backscattered light pattern produced by applying a laser beam to the pleural surface of a ventilated animal and obtained the S/V [equivalent to the inverse of the optical mean free path (lambda)]. After saline lavage, V at transpulmonary pressure (P) of 30 cmH2O (defined as total lung capacity) decreased by 11.1 +/- 3.1% (SD) and the P-V curve shifted to a lower V. The lambda-V curve was shifted to a higher lambda and to a lower V after saline lavage. S/V decreased after saline lavage (lambda increased by 38 +/- 27% on the deflation limb at a V of 80% of control total lung capacity). The alveolar surface tension increased after saline lavage, and the increase in surface tension was greater on inflation than on deflation. We conclude that depletion of pulmonary surfactant increases the alveolar surface tension in vivo, resulting in a decrease in S/V.
- Copyright © 1996 the American Physiological Society