Sternomastoid muscle function and fatigue in breathless patients with severe respiratory disease

The American Review of Respiratory Disease
J EfthimiouS G Spiro


In patients with severe respiratory disease, the work of breathing is increased and the respiratory muscles, particularly those of inspiration, may become fatigued. Hitherto, there has been little information on the incidence of respiratory muscle fatigue in acutely breathless patients. We studied 34 patients with severe respiratory disease on admission to hospital when they were most breathless, and then, if possible, 7 to 14 days later after recovery for evidence of sternomastoid muscle fatigue or increased fatigability. Frequency/force curves, numerically expressed as the 20:50 ratio, were carried out in all patients on admission. Three of the 34 patients had evidence of low frequency fatigue (i.e., greater than 15% reduction in 20:50 ratio) in the sternomastoid muscle on admission when first studied (mean +/- SEM 20:50 ratio, 56.3 +/- 1.2%; n = 3). The mean 20:50 ratio in the remaining 31 patients on admission was 75.7 +/- 1.6% (n = 31) compared with 77.8 +/- 1.4% (n = 25) when symptomatically better (p less than 0.05). The mean 20:50 ratio on admission was also significantly lower than the mean 20:50 ratio in a group of age- and sex-matched normal control subjects (i.e., 78.5 +/- 1.4%, n = 25; p less than 0.05). Twenty-fiv...Continue Reading


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