BACKGROUND: A diaphragmatic phonomyogram (PMG) evoked by maximal phrenic nerve stimulation at end expiratory lung volume (FRC) has been previously described as a good index of changes in diaphragmatic contractility with fatigue. A study was undertaken to assess whether this conclusion could be extended to different lung volumes. METHODS: Diaphragmatic compound motor action potentials (CMAPs) were recorded on each side of the chest by the means of surface electrodes placed over the eight intercostal spaces in five healthy subjects. Diaphragmatic PMGs from both sides were recorded with condenser microphones fixed to the skin close to the CMAP recording electrodes. Oesophageal and gastric balloon tipped catheters were employed to measure transdiaphragmatic pressure twitches (TwPDI) which served as the standard measure of changes in diaphragmatic contractility. PMG and TwPDI responses were compared at different lung volumes over inspiratory capacity both before and after fatiguing inspiratory resistive loading. RESULTS: No consistent relationship was found in different subjects or on different days in the same subject between PMG and lung volume or between PMG and TwPDI. However, the PMG:CMAP ratio from both sides at any given lung volume decreased after fatigue in roughly the same proportion as the TwPDI. CONCLUSIONS: These results show that, although PMG can detect changes in diaphragmatic contractility caused by fatigue in normal subjects, lung volume changes need to be controlled and each subject should serve as his or her own control.
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