CPAP reduces inspiratory work more than dyspnea during hyperinflation with intrinsic PEEP

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Hyperinflation with intrinsic positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEPi) loads the respiratory muscles and causes dyspnea in obstructive lung disease. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has shown some efficacy in reducing inspiratory work and dyspnea. However, in obstructive lung disease, inspiratory work and dyspnea may be increased by additional factors that may not be affected by CPAP. Therefore, to study the effects of hyperinflation with intrinsic PEEP and CPAP in isolation, we used a mechanical analog of airway closure to increase end-expiratory lung volume in normal subjects. In five subjects in whom inspiratory work was measured, increasing end- expiratory lung volume by 1 and 2 L increased inspiratory work per breath from 0.42±0.04 J to 1.17±0.15 J (p<0.05 compared with baseline) and 1.58±0.22 J (p<0.05 compared with baseline and to the lesser level of hyperinflation). Although CPAP reduced work per breath and per minute to levels not significantly different from baseline, it had little effect on dyspnea. In ten subjects hyperinflated to 2.4±0.12 L above FRC, breathing could be sustained 19.5±4.5 min before quitting the load. This was increased to 26.7±5.2 min by 10 cm H2O CPAP (p=0.052). Inspiratory dyspnea was modestly reduced by CPAP during these endurance trials. We conclude that CPAP can substantially ameliorate the respiratory work load induced by hyperinflation with intrinsic PEEP. However, the effects of CPAP on dyspnea and endurance are more limited. This suggests that the limits to breathing at high lung volumes are related to factors in addition to respiratory muscle work, and that CPAP may be of more value in reducing the work than in relieving the distress of obstructive lung disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-440
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995


  • continuous positive airway pressure
  • respiratory failure
  • respiratory muscles
  • work of breathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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