Use of aerosols to measure in vivo volume-dependent changes in lung air space dimensions

W. D. Bennett, W. Mitzner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Using measurements of aerosol recovery following a 5-s breath hold [NRC(5)] as indices of lung air space dimensions, we evaluated the in vivo changes in these dimensions associated with changes in lung volume (VL). In anesthetized dogs, single breaths of a 1.2-μm monodisperse aerosol were introduced into the respirator's cycle at a number of isovolume points on the inflation and deflation limb of the pressure-volume curve for the dog's lungs. At isovolume, NRC(5) measured off the inflation limb was slightly larger than NRC(5) measured off the deflation limb, implying a larger mean air space dimension for the air space configuration on the inflation vs. the deflation limb. Since a constant aerosol tidal volume (VT) was used for all VL in all dogs, the proportion of the lung filled with aerosol, VT/VL = Pn (where Pn is defined as an index of aerosol penetration into the lung periphery), varied along with VL. In all dogs, we found that, for NRC(5) measurements with Pn < 0.33, NRC(5) steadily increased with increasing VL, which implies an increasing mean air space dimension as VL increases. However, when we account for the effect that changes in Pn with increasing VL have on NRC(5), we conclude that the observed increase in NRC(5) with VL is primarily due to decreases in Pn and not increases in the mean air space dimension as VL increases. For measurements of NRC(5) with Pn > 0.33, there was no change in NRC(5) as VL increased and Pn decreased, implying an unchanged mean air space dimension as VL increases. Since a decreasing Pn tends to cause an increase in NRC(5), this result implies that at this depth of aerosol penetration the mean air space dimension was actually decreasing with increased VL. Overall, the findings of this study are consistent with a model of lung expansion by recruitment of alveoli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)875-883
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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