Airway size is related to sex but not lung size in normal adults

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1987 Nov;63(5):2042-7. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1987.63.5.2042.


Within individuals, lung size as assessed by total lung capacity (TLC) or vital capacity (VC) appears to be unrelated to airway size as assessed physiologically by maximum expiratory flows (MEF). Green et al. (J. Appl. Physiol. 37: 67-74, 1974) coined the term dysanapsis (unequal growth) to express this apparent interindividual discrepancy between parenchymal and airway size. We have reexamined this discrepancy using both physiological and anatomic indexes of airway size. Airway area by acoustic reflectance (AAAR), peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR), MEF, and lung volumes were measured in 26 male and 28 female healthy nonsmoking adults. The effect of sex on these indexes of large airway size was significant when assessed in a subset of males and females whose TLC's were matched (5.0-6.5 liters). Within this subset, male AAAR was 2.79 +/- 0.45 cm2, whereas female AAAR was 1.99 +/- 0.67 cm2 (P less than 0.01). Male's PEFR and MEF after 25% of VC had been expired (MEF25) were 23% greater than those of females within this subset (P less than 0.05). For the entire group of subjects, once these sex-related differences had been accounted for, AAAR was not significantly related to TLC, whereas PEFR and MEF25 remained at best weakly related to TLC. We conclude that tracheal areas in males are significantly larger than those of females even after controlling for TLC and that after controlling for sex-related differences, tracheal size in adults is unrelated to lung size across a broad range of lung sizes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / anatomy & histology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Ventilation
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Total Lung Capacity
  • Trachea / anatomy & histology*
  • Vital Capacity