Lung function responses to inhaled cotton dust were evaluated in a group of 58 healthy subjects by spirometry (MEFV curves) and forced random noise impedance parameters. Twenty-one of these subjects were also examined by body plethysmography to assess changes in airway resistance (Raw). For the study group as a whole, alterations in lung mechanical function after exposure to cotton dust were detected by maximal expiratory volumes and flows (p less than 0.001) and impedance parameters (p less than 0.01) but not by Raw. Subjects showing responses in MEFV curves also showed increases in Thevenin or effective resistance at low frequencies (R1, R5-9, R5-9/R20-24), suggesting that the limitation of flow occurred predominantly in the peripheral airways. By contrast, non-responders on MEFV measurements were found to have significant increases in effective resistance both at low and at high frequencies (R1, R5-9, R20-24), suggesting a central airways effect. MEFV curve non-responders also exhibited a significantly lower baseline effective resistance profile than MEFV curve responders. The data indicate that under the conditions of the experiment measures of the Thevenin resistance (real part of impedence) by the forced random noise method are reliable indicators of cotton induced bronchoconstriction. Measurement variability, however, suggests that, at present, these are more appropriate for group studies and should remain adjuncts to standard tests of lung function such as spirometry.
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