Airway conductance was measured in a body plethysmograph at different lung volumes before and after graded exercise. In 14 out of 19 patients, mostly asthmatics, airway conductance fell significantly after exercise. These subjects also showed other signs of an increased bronchial reactivity to different stimuli, including forced breathing, hyperventilation, and cold air, but they had no exogenous allergy. The exercise-induced bronchoconstriction could be blocked by atropine in six of the nine patients tested. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in patients with clinical and physiological evidence of increased airway reactivity thus seems to be primarily mediated via a vagal reflex, probably from hyperresponsive airway mechanoreceptors reacting to increased ventilatory flow or lung distension. No relation was found between PaCO2 or pH and the severity of airways constriction. Cromoglycic acid failed to block the exercise reaction in five of the six hyperreactive patients tested. In addition to or following the vagal reflex a disturbed relation between beta and alpha receptors in bronchial muscles or a release of humoral spasmogens may contribute to the progression of post-exercise airways constriction.
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