Effects of breath holding at low and high lung volumes on amount of exhaled particles

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Jan 15;185(2):228-34. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2012.10.010. Epub 2012 Nov 1.


Exhaled breath contains particles originating from the respiratory tract lining fluid. The particles are thought to be generated during inhalation, by reopening of airways closed in the preceding expiration. The aim here was to explore processes that control exhaled particle concentrations. The results show that 5 and 10s breath holding at residual volume increased the median concentration of particles in exhaled air by 63% and 110%, respectively, averaged over 10 subjects. An increasing number of closed airways, developing on a timescale of seconds explains this behaviour. Breath holds of 5, 10 and 20s at total lung capacity decreased the concentration to 63%, 45% and 28% respectively, of the directly exhaled concentration. The decrease in particle concentration after breath holding at total lung capacity is caused by gravitational settling in the alveoli and associated bronchioles. The geometry employed here when modelling the deposition is however not satisfactory and ways of improving the description are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breath Holding*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Bronchioles / physiology
  • Exhalation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiology
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*
  • Total Lung Capacity / physiology*