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Clinical Trial
, 78 (1), 179-84

Developmental Changes in Chest Wall Compliance in Infancy and Early Childhood

Clinical Trial

Developmental Changes in Chest Wall Compliance in Infancy and Early Childhood

C Papastamelos et al. J Appl Physiol (1985).


Development of chest wall stiffness between infancy and adulthood has important consequences for respiratory system function. To test the hypothesis that there is substantial stiffening of the chest wall in the first few years of life, we measured passive chest wall compliance (Cw) in 40 sedated humans 2 wk-3.5 yr old. Respiratory muscles were relaxed with manual ventilation applied during the Mead-Whittenberger technique. Respiratory system compliance (Crs) and lung compliance (Cl) were calculated from airway opening pressure, transpulmonary pressure, and tidal volume. Cw was calculated as 1/Cw = 1/Crs - 1/Cl during manual ventilation. Mean Cw per kilogram in infants < 1 yr old was significantly higher than that in children > 1 yr old (2.80 +/- 0.87 vs. 2.04 +/- 0.51; P = 0.002). There was an inverse linear relationship between age and mean Cw per kilogram (r = -0.495, slope -0.037; P < 0.001). In subjects with normal Cl during spontaneous breathing, Cw/spontaneous Cl was 2.86 +/- 1.06 in infants < 1 yr old and 1.33 +/- 0.36 in older children (P = 0.005). We conclude that in infancy the chest wall is nearly three times as compliant as the lung and that by the 2nd year of life chest wall stiffness increases to the point that the chest wall and lung are nearly equally compliant, as in adulthood. Stiffening of the chest wall may play a major role in developmental changes in respiratory system function such as the ability to passively maintain resting lung volume and improved ventilatory efficiency afforded by reduced rib cage distortion.

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