BACKGROUND--Inspiratory muscle strength is often better reflected by oesophageal pressure during a maximal sniff (sniff POES) than by maximal inspiratory pressure (PImax). Sniff POES can be estimated non-invasively by measuring the sniff nasal inspiratory pressure (SNIP). The aim was to establish maximal normal values for the SNIP and to compare them with PImax. METHODS--One hundred and sixty healthy subjects (80 men) aged 20-80 years were recruited. All subjects had a forced vital capacity (FVC) of > 80%, a forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)/FVC of > 85% predicted value, and a body mass index of 18-31 kg/m2. Because PImax is known to be reduced in the supine posture, the SNIP was measured in both the sitting and the supine positions. PImax sustained over one second was measured from functional residual capacity (FRC) in the sitting position with a standard flanged mouthpiece during four manoeuvres. SNIP was measured from FRC in the sitting and supine positions using a catheter through a plug occluding one nostril during 10 maximal sniffs through the contralateral nostril. For each test the largest pressure measured in cm H2O was taken into account. RESULTS--For both men and women maximal SNIP was negatively correlated with age, and was similar in the sitting and the supine positions. In the sitting position maximal SNIP was greater or equal to PImax in 107 of 160 subjects. The mean (SD) ratio SNIP/PImax was 1.08 (0.22) in men and 1.17 (0.29) in women. CONCLUSIONS--Normal values of maximal SNIP can be predicted from age and sex. Maximal SNIP is similar in the sitting and the supine position and is significantly higher than PImax in healthy subjects. The low level of agreement between maximal SNIP and PImax indicates that the two manoeuvres are not interchangeable but complementary.
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