The pattern of stimulated breathing during carbon dioxide inhalation was studied in a group of 21 patients with severe irreversible airways obstruction (mean FEV1 = 0.9 litre, mean FEV1/FVC% = 50%). Carbon dioxide rebreathing experiments were performed, the ventilatory response being defined in terms of total ventilation (V) and CO2 sensitivity (S). Breathing pattern was defined by the changes in tidal volume (delta VT) and respiratory frequency (delta f) and the maximum VT achieved (VTmax). Contrary to some previous studied no significant relationship could be demonstrated between the severity of airway obstruction (FEV1/FVC%, Raw) and the ventilatory response to rebreathing (V, S, delta VT, delta f, VTmax). However, measurements of dynamic lung volume (FEV1, FVC, IC) were found to be significantly correlated with the breathing pattern variables (delta VT, delta f, VTmax). Resting PaO2 and PaCO2 were significantly correlated with delta VT but not delta f. Results indicate that the degree of airway obstruction does not dictate the ventilatory or breathing pattern response to carbon dioxide induced hyperpnoea. In contrast it is the restriction of dynamic lung volume, by limiting the VT response, that appears to determine the ventilatory and breathing pattern response in patients with severe airway obstruction.
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