Expiratory muscle fatigue does not regulate operating lung volumes during high-intensity exercise in healthy humans

Bryan J Taylor, Stephen C How, Lee M Romer
Journal of Applied Physiology 2013, 114 (11): 1569-76
To determine whether expiratory muscle fatigue (EMF) is involved in regulating operating lung volumes during exercise, nine recreationally active subjects cycled at 90% of peak work rate to the limit of tolerance with prior induction of EMF (EMF-ex) and for a time equal to that achieved in EMF-ex without prior induction of EMF (ISO-ex). EMF was assessed by measuring changes in magnetically evoked gastric twitch pressure. Changes in end-expiratory and end-inspiratory lung volume (EELV and EILV) and the degree of expiratory flow limitation (EFL) were quantified using maximal expiratory flow-volume curves and inspiratory capacity maneuvers. Resistive breathing reduced gastric twitch pressure (-24 ± 14%, P = 0.004). During EMF-ex, EELV decreased from rest to the 3rd min of exercise [39 ± 8 vs. 27 ± 7% of forced vital capacity (FVC), P = 0.001] before increasing toward baseline (34 ± 8% of FVC end exercise, P = 0.073 vs. rest). EILV increased from rest to the 3rd min of exercise (54 ± 8 vs. 84 ± 9% of FVC, P = 0.006) and remained elevated to end exercise (88 ± 9% of FVC). Neither EELV (P = 0.18) nor EILV (P = 0.26) was different at any time point during EMF-ex vs. ISO-ex. Four subjects became expiratory flow limited during the final minute of EMF-ex and ISO-ex; the degree of EFL was not different between trials (37 ± 18 vs. 35 ± 16% of tidal volume, P = 0.38). At end exercise in both trials, EELV was greater in subjects without vs. subjects with EFL. These findings suggest that 1) contractile fatigue of the expiratory muscles in healthy humans does not regulate operating lung volumes during high-intensity sustained cycle exercise; and 2) factors other than "frank" EFL cause the terminal increase in EELV.

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