The contribution of vagal mechanisms to exercise-induced asthma has been studied in 10 adult asthmatic patients using the anticholinergic drug ipratropium bromide. Exercise tests were performed for eight minutes on a cycle ergometer and each individual's tests were standardised by matching oxygen uptake. Two tests were done on each of three study days, the first being without previous medication, and the second preceded by inhalation of ipratropium bromide, 0.1, or 1 mg or saline placebo given 90 minutes beforehand. The mean falls in FEV1 and PEFR after the initial tests were very similar on the three study days. The mean falls in FEV1 after the second test were 22.3%, 19.5%, and 12.5% with placebo, 0.1 mg, and 1 mg ipratropium bromide respectively. Only the higher dose was significantly better than placebo. The results were also analysed using a protection index to compare the first and second tests each day and 1 mg ipratropium bromide was significantly better than both 0.1 mg and placebo. Similar results were obtained using PEFR. Equal bronchodilatation was produced by the two doses of drug. We conclude that conventional doses of anticholinergic drugs are not effective in preventing exercise-induced asthma, while large doses may do so in the same group of subjects.
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