Crackle Pitch Rises Progressively during Inspiration in Pneumonia, CHF, and IPF Patients

Pulm Med. 2012;2012:240160. doi: 10.1155/2012/240160. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Objective. It is generally accepted that crackles are due to sudden opening of airways and that larger airways produce crackles of lower pitch than smaller airways do. As larger airways are likely to open earlier in inspiration than smaller airways and the reverse is likely to be true in expiration, we studied crackle pitch as a function of crackle timing in inspiration and expiration. Our goal was to see if the measurement of crackle pitch was consistent with this theory. Methods. Patients with a significant number of crackles were examined using a multichannel lung sound analyzer. These patients included 34 with pneumonia, 38 with heart failure, and 28 with interstitial fibrosis. Results. Crackle pitch progressively increased during inspirations in 79% of all patients. In these patients crackle pitch increased by approximately 40 Hz from the early to midinspiration and by another 40 Hz from mid to late-inspiration. In 10% of patients, crackle pitch did not change and in 11% of patients crackle pitch decreased. During expiration crackle pitch progressively decreased in 72% of patients and did not change in 28% of patients. Conclusion. In the majority of patients, we observed progressive crackle pitch increase during inspiration and decrease during expiration. Increased crackle pitch at larger lung volumes is likely a result of recruitment of smaller diameter airways. An alternate explanation is that crackle pitch may be influenced by airway tension that increases at greater lung volume. In any case improved understanding of the mechanism of production of these common lung sounds may help improve our understanding of pathophysiology of these disorders.