Background: The playing of wind instruments has been associated with changes in respiratory function.
Study objectives: To investigate the effect of playing wind instruments on lung function and respiratory symptoms.
Methods: The present study included 99 wind instrument players and a group of 41 string instrument players as a control from 3 major orchestras in Zagreb, Croatia. Data on chronic respiratory symptoms were recorded in all studied subjects. Lung function was measured in wind instrument players by recording maximum expiratory flow-volume curves.
Results: Wind instrument players demonstrated significantly higher prevalences of sinusitis, nasal catarrh and hoarseness compared to control musicians. One wind instrument player developed asthma associated with his work. Odds ratios for wind instrument players were significant for chronic cough, chronic phlegm and chronic bronchitis by smoking habit (p<0.05 or p<0.01) but not for length of employment. Ventilatory capacity data indicate that wind instrument players had significantly greater FEV1 (smokers and nonsmokers) as well as FEF50 (nonsmokers) (p<0.05) compared to predicted values. Regression analysis of pulmonary function tests in wind instrument players demonstrate a significant link between FEV1 and FEF50 and length of employment. Those wind instrument players with longer employment had the greatest increases in lung function.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that musicians playing wind instruments may be susceptible to chronic upper airway symptoms. Interestingly wind instrument playing may be associated with higher than expected lung function parameters.