Impaired exercise ventilatory mechanics with the self-contained breathing apparatus are improved with heliox

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2007 Dec;101(6):659-69. doi: 10.1007/s00421-007-0541-5. Epub 2007 Aug 14.


The effect of the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with compressed air (BA-A) on ventilatory mechanics, work of breathing (WOB), pulmonary function, and respiratory muscle fatigue, was compared with that of a low resistance breathing valve (LRV). Further, the effect of unloading the respiratory muscles with heliox with the SCBA (BA-H) was compared with BA-A and LRV. Twelve men completed three randomized exercise trials on separate days, each consisting of three 10 min bouts of stepping exercise (Bouts 1, 2, and 3) separated by a 5 min recovery. Subjects wore firefighter protective equipment including the SCBA. At rest, FEV(1) and peak expiratory flow rates were lower with BA-A than with LRV, but were higher with BA-H than either with BA-A or LRV. After Bout 3, expiratory reserve volume, expiratory resistive WOB, and inspiratory elastic WOB were increased in BA-A compared to LRV but these were lower with BA-H compared to BA-A. After Bout 3, maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures were reduced with BA-A, but not with LRV or BA-H. In summary, we found that the SCBA reduced resting pulmonary function, and increased expiratory reserve volume, work of breathing, and respiratory muscle fatigue during stepping exercise, and these changes can be reduced with the use of heliox.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pressure
  • Body Temperature
  • Esophagus / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Helium / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lung Compliance / physiology
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Maximal Expiratory Flow Rate / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Protective Devices
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Mechanics / drug effects*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiology
  • Spirometry
  • Thoracic Wall / physiology
  • Ventilators, Mechanical*
  • Work of Breathing / physiology


  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Oxygen