The passive flow-volume and partial forced expiratory flow-volume techniques were used to assess pulmonary function in 14 spontaneously breathing infants with acute respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis. Two additional infants were studied while paralysed and ventilated. During the acute stage of the illness there was a significant reduction in forced expiratory flow rates and an increase in respiratory resistance. Although the mean thoracic gas volume for the group was increased, five infants did not compensate for their airways obstruction by hyperinflation. Curvilinear passive flow-volume curves were seen in three of the 14 non-ventilated infants and in both ventilated infants. At follow up three to four months later all passive flow-volume curves were linear. There was a significant reduction in hyperinflation and an increase in forced expiratory flow rates, but values still differed significantly from those in normal infants.
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