High-resolution computed tomographic evaluation of airway distensibility and the effects of lung inflation on airway caliber in healthy subjects and individuals with asthma

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Mar;163(4):994-1001. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.163.4.2007119.


The effects of a deep inspiration (DI) in individuals with asthma differ from those observed in healthy subjects. It has been postulated that the beneficial effect of lung inflation is mediated by airway stretch. One hypothesis to explain the defects in the function of lung inflation in asthma is that a DI may be unable to stretch the airways. This may result from attenuation of the tethering forces between the airways and the surrounding parenchyma. In the current study, we used high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) to examine the ability of a DI to distend the airways of subjects with asthma (n = 10) compared with healthy subjects (n = 9) at baseline and after increasing airway tone with methacholine (MCh). We found that both at baseline and after the induction of smooth muscle tone with MCh, a DI distended the airways of healthy and asthmatic subjects to a similar extent, indicating that abnormal interdependence between the lung parenchyma and the airways is unlikely to play a major role in the loss or attenuation of the beneficial effect of lung inflation that characterizes asthma. Furthermore, we observed that after constriction had already been induced by MCh, following a DI, bronchodilation occurred in the healthy subjects but further bronchoconstriction occurred in the subjects with asthma. Our findings suggest that an abnormal excitation contraction mechanism in the airway smooth muscle of subjects with mild asthma counteracts the bronchodilatory effect of a DI. Therefore, the mechanism for reduced bronchodilation after DIs in subjects with mild asthma could be intrinsic to the airway smooth muscle.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Resistance
  • Asthma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Probability
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Methacholine Chloride