Neural respiratory drive in patients with COPD during exercise tests

Respiration. 2011;81(4):294-301. doi: 10.1159/000317136. Epub 2010 Jun 26.


Background: It is unknown whether neural drive is comparable in constant rate and incremental exercise tests. Few data have previously been available to address this question because of the lack of reliable methods to assess neural respiratory drive in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Objectives: The aims of this study are to determine whether neural respiratory drive during constant rate exercise differs from that during incremental exercise and to determine whether neural respiratory drive was maximal at the end of exhaustive exercise tests.

Methods: We studied sixteen patients with moderate-severe COPD (mean ± SD FEV(1) 29 ± 10%). Both diaphragmatic electro-myogram (EMG) and transdiaphragmatic pressure were recorded with a combined multipair electrode balloon catheter during incremental and constant (80% of maximal oxygen consumption derived from a prior incremental exercise test) treadmill exercise. Minute ventilation and oxygen uptake were also measured.

Results: Root mean square (RMS) of the diaphragmatic EMG increased gradually without a plateau during incremental exercise, whereas the RMS increased initially and reached a plateau during constant work rate exercise. The RMS of the diaphragmatic EMG at the end of exercise was similar for both incremental and constant work rate exercise (176 ± 42 μV vs. 184 ± 39 μV); these values were 70 and 73% of maximal values recorded over the study.

Conclusions: The pattern of increase in neural respiratory drive during incremental exercise is different to that observed during constant work rate exercise, but both exercise protocols are terminated when the patients achieve a similar but submaximal drive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diaphragm / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Functional Residual Capacity
  • Humans
  • Inhalation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Respiration*
  • Total Lung Capacity