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Detection Of Diaphragmatic Fatigue In Man By Phrenic Stimulation

M. Aubier, G. Farkas, A. De Troyer, R. Mozes, C. Roussos

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Transdiaphragmatic pressure (Pdi) was measured at functional residual capacity (FRC) in four normal seated subjects during supramaximal, supraclavicular transcutaneous stimulation of one phrenic nerve (10, 20, 50, and 100 Hz--0.1 ms duration) before and after diaphragmatic fatigue, produced by breathing through a high alinear inspiratory resistance. Constancy of chest wall configuration was achieved by placing a cast around the abdomen and the lower one-fourth of the rib cage. Pdi increased with frequency of stimulation, so that at 10, 20, and 50 Hz, the Pdi generated was 32 +/- 4 (SE), 70 +/- 3, and 98 +/- 2% of Pdi at 100 Hz, respectively. After diaphragmatic fatigue, Pdi was less than control at all frequencies of stimulation. Recovery for high stimulation frequencies was complete at 10 min, but at low stimulation frequencies recovery was slow: after 30 min of recovery, Pdi at 20 Hz was 31 +/- 7% of the control value. It is concluded that diaphragmatic fatigue can be detected in man by transcutaneous stimulation of the phrenic nerve and that diaphragmatic strength after fatigue recovers faster at high than at low frequencies of stimulation. Furthermore, it is suggested that this long-lasting element of fatigue might occur in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease, predisposing them to respiratory failure.