Fibrous attachments to the airway wall and a subpleural surrounding pressure can create an external load against which airway smooth muscle must contract. A decrease in this load has been proposed as a possible cause of increased airway narrowing in asthmatic individuals. To study the interaction between the airways and the surrounding lung parenchyma, we investigated the effect of lung inflation on relaxed airways, airways contracted with methacholine, and airways made edematous by infusion of bradykinin into the bronchial artery. Measurements were made in anesthetized sheep by using high- resolution computed tomography to visualize changes in individual airways. During methacholine infusion, airway area was decreased but increased minimally with increases in transpulmonary pressure. Bradykinin infusion caused a 50% increase in airway wall area and a small decrease in airway luminal area. In contrast to airways contracted with methacholine, the luminal area after bradykinin increased substantially with increases in transpulmonary pressure, reaching 99% of the relaxed area at total lung capacity. Thus airway edema by itself did not prevent full distension of the airway at lung volumes approaching total lung capacity. Therefore, we speculate that if a deep inspiration fails to relieve airway narrowing in vivo, this must be a manifestation of airway smooth muscle contraction and not airway wall edema.
- high-resolution computed tomography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)