The effects of intermittent negative pressure ventilation have been studied in 20 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease during an exacerbation of their disease. Measurements of arterial blood gas tensions and maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) were performed before and after six hours of negative pressure ventilation or standard treatment (control day) given in random order on two consecutive days. After negative pressure ventilation the mean (SD) value of MIP increased from 68.1 (21.5) to 74.8 (20) cm H2O;* arterial oxygen tension (PaCO2) fell from 60.6 (12.2) to 50.9 (8.9) mm Hg* but PaO2 changed little (from 48.4 (7.4) to 47.6 (8.2) mm Hg). There were no significant changes on the control day in arterial blood gas tensions (PaO2 47.8 (8.1) and 48.9 (9.4) and Paco2 59.8 (10.9) and 57.5 (8.06) mm Hg) or in MIP (69.4 (22.4) and 70.9 (22.9) cm H2O). Six patients tolerated negative pressure ventilation poorly and these patients showed less improvement after negative pressure ventilation. Our results suggest that intermittent negative pressure ventilation can increase alveolar ventilation in patients with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive lung disease, particularly in those who tolerate the procedure well. Most subjects showed a fall in PaCO2 and an increase in MIP. The fact that PaO2 was unchanged despite the fall in PaCO2 suggests that gas exchange may deteriorate with negative pressure ventilation in these patients.
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