Respiratory muscle activity and dyspnea during exercise in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2009 Jun 30;167(2):195-200. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2009.04.018. Epub 2009 May 3.


We aimed to determine by non-invasive EMG, whether during exercise: (1) COPD patients increase scalene and intercostal EMG activity, (2) increased EMG activity is associated with increased dyspnea, and (3) the ratio between EMG activity and volume displacement is increased in COPD compared to healthy subjects (HS). During a maximal incremental cycle test, scalene and intercostal EMG was derived transcutaneously in 17 COPD patients and 10 HS. Dyspnea was quantified using a Borg scale, ranging from zero to 10 (maximal dyspnea). For analyses the ratio between inspiratory muscle activity during exercise and activity during quiet breathing was used (logEMGAR). In COPD patients, scalene and intercostal activity increased at greater rate early in exercise compared to that of the HS. With a doubling of the logEMGAR, in COPD, dyspnea increased with 2.8/3.8 points, while in the HS, dyspnea increased less with 1.1/1.4 points. In COPD, there was a larger increase in EMG activity relatively to tidal volume increases.

MeSH terms

  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology*
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Tidal Volume