Sixteen patients with stable asthma performed a symptom-limited constant work-rate CWR cycle exercise during which breathing pattern, operating lung volumes, dyspnea intensity and its qualitative descriptors were measured. An inflection in the relation between tidal volume (V(T)) and ventilation (V˙(E)) was observed in each subject. The sense of "work/effort" was the dominant dyspnea descriptor selected up to the V(T)/V˙(E) inflection, whereas after it dyspnea intensity and the selection frequency of "unsatisfied inspiration" rose steeply in 37.5% of subjects in whom inspiratory reserve volume (IRV) had decreased to a critical level of 0.6L at the V(T) inflection point. In contrast, dyspnea increased linearly with exercise time and V˙(E), and "work/effort" was the dominant descriptor selected throughout exercise in 62.5% of subjects in whom the V(T)/V˙(E) inflection occurred at a preserved IRV. The V(T) inflection during exercise in patients with stable asthma marked a mechanical event with important sensory consequences only when it occurred at a critical reduced IRV.
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