The effect of aerosol distribution on airway responsiveness to inhaled methacholine in patients with asthma

Beth L. Laube, Philip S. Norman, G. K. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


It has been demonstrated that airway deposition of inhaled aerosols is more heterogeneous in patients with asthma than in normal subjects. Nevertheless, the influence of abnormal airway deposition on responses to bronchoactive aerosols is poorly understood. We altered bronchopulmonary deposition heterogeneity of methacholine aerosol in nine asymptomatic patients with asthma by controlling inspiratory flow at high (∼ 60 L/min) versus low (∼ 12 L/min) rates on 2 study days and determined the effect on the provocative dose of methacholine causing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PD20) (often used as a measure of airway responsiveness). Deposition uniformity was quantified from gamma-camera scans of the lungs in terms of the distribution of a technetium-labeled aerosol that was inhaled rapidly or slowly before the inhalation of methacholine. Increased deposition in an inner (large, central airways) versus an outer (peripheral airways and alveoli) zone of the right lung (inner/outer ratio, >1) and higher values of skew (an index of deposition asymmetry) and kurtosis (an index of deposition range) indicated enhanced heterogeneity of deposition. Mean (± SD) inner/outer ratio was significantly higher during rapid inspiration compared to slow inspiration with 2.91 ± 0.51 and 1.84 ± 0.30, respectively (p < 0.01). Mean skew and kurtosis were also significantly higher after rapid inspiration, with 1.12 ± 0.35 and 3.86 ± 1.25, respectively, compared to 0.74 ± 0.36 and 2.64 ± 0.77 after slow inhalation (p < 0.01). Geometric mean PD20 methacholine was significantly reduced when the aerosol was inhaled rapidly, with 5.9 cumulative methacholine units compared to 15.7 units after slow inhalation (p < 0.02). A Spearman's rank-correlation test demonstrated that values of skew and kurtosis were inversely correlated with PD20 methacholine (p < 0.02; rs = -0.55 and -0.60, respectively). Results from these studies indicate that increased heterogeneity in aerosol deposition significantly decreases PD20 methacholine in patients with asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-518
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of allergy and clinical immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1992


  • Aerosol distribution
  • airway reactivity
  • asthma
  • methacholine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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