Intrathoracic (oesophageal), intra-abdominal (gastric), and transdiaphragmatic (Pdi) pressures were studied in 20 untrained, healthy subjects during a full inspiration and repeated maximal static inspiratory efforts. The pattern of pressure generation during these two types of respiratory manoeuvre was highly reproducible in each subject. By contrast, it varied over a wide range among individuals. In particular a substantial number of subjects naturally had a strong recruitment of their intercostal and accessory muscles and thus, low Pdi values, during both slowly performed and forceful inspiratory manoeuvres. These observations make it clear that Pdi values, as usually obtained, are commonly open to misinterpretation. For this approach to ensure a reliable assessment of diaphragmatic function and detect diaphragm weakness adequately, it appears essential either to monitor the abdominothoracic configuration or to standardise the pattern of respiratory muscle contraction.
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