Lung volumes, airway resistance, expiratory flow rates, distribution of ventilation, and arterial blood gases were measured before and after fiberoptic bronchoscopy in 13 patients with moderately severe chronic airways obstruction and in 10 healthy non-smoking controls. Arterial blood gases were also monitored serially during the procedure. Arterial oxygen tension (Pao2) fell during fiberoptic bronchoscopy in both patients and controls whereas arterial carbon dioxide tension and pH remained unchanged. Control subjects had no change in lung mechanics after fiberoptic bronchoscopy. However, the patients consistently developed increased airway obstruction after fiberoptic bronchoscopy. Within 24 hours after bronchoscopy lung function in the patients returned to baseline values, except for the residual volume which remained abnormally high. The topical application of lignocaine (Lidocaine) for local anesthesia before fiberoptic bronchoscopy produced no effect on lung mechanics in nine patients and 10 controls, but Pao2 decreased in both the patient and control groups. These results indicate that fiberoptic bronchoscopy consistently inpairs lung mechanics and gas exchange in patients with chronic airways obstruction but that the impairment is mild and reversible. Lignocaine administration as well as the intubation procedure contribute to the fall in Pao2 which occurs both in the patients and in subjects without pre-existing lung disease.
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