In thirteen patients with extrinsic asthma the effects of placebo, sodium cromoglycate, ipratropium bromide, and ipratropium bromide plus sodium cromoglycate were studied in a random double-blind fashion to assess their inhibitory action in exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Exercise testing consisted of steady state running on an inclined treadmill for up to eight minutes. In eight of the 13 patients studied the baseline ratio of expiratory flow at 50% vital capacity (VC) breathing helium-oxygen (V50He) to V50air was over 1.20 and they were called responders; the remaining five patients were called non-responders. There was a significantly lower baseline maximum mid-expiratory flow rate (MMEF) in non-responders (P less than 0.02) as compared to responders but no difference in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) or forced vital capacity (FVC). Sodium cromoglycate (P less than 0.02), ipratropium bromide (P less than 0.01), and ipratropium bromide plus spdium cromoglycate (P less than 0.01) all significantly inhibited the percentage fall in FEV1 after exercise in the responders. Ipratropium bromide had no preventive action on non-responders, unlike sodium cromoglycate (P less than 0.05) and ipratropium bromide plus sodium cromoglycate (P less than 0.02). It is postulated that mediator release is an important factor in development of EIA in most extrinsic asthmatics, whereas cholinergic mechanisms are relevant only in those patients in whom the main site of airflow obstruction is in the large central airways.
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