Observational study of the effect of obesity on lung volumes.

28. 04. 2014

Steier J1, Lunt A, Hart N, Polkey MI, Moxham J.
Thorax. 2014 Apr 15. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2014-205148.


Severe obesity causes respiratory morbidity and mortality. The impact of obesity on the mechanics of breathing is not fully understood.

We undertook a comprehensive observational study of lung volumes and elasticity in nine obese and nine normal weight subjects, seated and supine, during spontaneous breathing. Seated and supine total lung capacity (TLC) and subdivisions were measured by multibreath helium dilution method. Using balloon catheters, oesophageal (Poes) and gastric (Pgas) pressures were recorded. Transpulmonary pressure (PL) was calculated as mouth pressure (Pmouth)-Poes, and complete expiratory PL volume curves were measured.

The obese group had a body mass index (BMI) of 46.8 (17.2) kg/m2, and the normal group had a BMI of 23.2 (1.6) kg/m2 (p=0.001). Obese and normals were matched for age (p=0.233), gender (p=0.637) and height (p=0.094). The obese were more restricted than the normals (TLC 88.6 (16.9) vs 104.4 (12.3) %predicted, p=0.033; FEV1/FVC 79.6 (7.3) vs 82.5 (4.2) %, p=0.325), had dramatically reduced expiratory reserve volume (ERV 0.4 (0.4) vs 1.7 (0.6) L, p

Obese subjects have markedly increased gastric and oesophageal pressures, both when upright and supine, causing dramatically reduced FRC and ERV, which increases work of breathing.

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