The effect of exercise on gas exchange was studied in 17 patients (seven male and 10 female) recovering in hospital from acute severe asthma. On admission the patients (mean age 26 (SD 8) years) had a mean peak expiratory flow (PEF) of 26.8% (5.7%) predicted, a mean arterial oxygen tension (PaO2) of 8.63 (1.26) kPa, and a mean alveolar-arterial oxygen difference (A-aDO2) of 5.98 (1.34) kPa. Once resting symptoms had resolved (after 3.7 (1.6) days) patients performed a constant load exercise test (100 watts for men, 75 watts for women) on a bicycle ergometer for five minutes. PEF was measured before exercise and at five minute intervals for 30 minutes after exercise. Blood gas tensions were measured on capillary blood before, during, and 10 minutes after exercise. Treatment was not interrupted for this study. Mean PEF at rest was 87.6% (21.1%) predicted and showed no significant change after exercise. Mean PaO2 was 13.13 (1.37) kPa before exercise; it showed no significant change during exercise (13.93 (1.34) kPa) or 10 minutes after exercise (13.50 (2.15) kPa). Mean A-aDO2 also showed no change, being 1.82 (1.31) kPa before exercise, 1.79 (1.27) kPa during exercise, and 2.53 (0.93) kPa after exercise. It is concluded that moderate exercise carried out shortly after treatment for acute severe asthma is unlikely to result in worsening gas exchange during or after exercise if resting PEF, PaO2 and A-aDO2 have attained normal or near normal values.
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