Inhalation of Nitric Oxide Modulates Adult Human Bronchial Tone

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We studied whether nitric oxide (NO), added at 80 ppm to inspired gas, can exert a bronchodilatory effect in humans. Four groups were studied: (1) healthy adult volunteers (n = 6), (2) adult subjects with hyperreactive airways (n = 6) during provocation with inhaled methacholine (MCh), (3) patients with bronchial asthma (n = 13), and (4) patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, n = 6). All subjects were studied in a body plethysmograph, measuring volume-corrected specific airway conductance (SGaw). No patient or volunteer reacted with bronchoconstriction during NO inhalation. Nitric oxide did not affect SGaw in healthy volunteers or in patients with COPD. Inhaled NO modulated the MCh-induced bronchoconstriction toward dilatation. In patients with bronchial asthma, SGaw increased (p < 0.05) from 0.4 ± 0.1 to 0.6 ± 0.2 (kPa·s)−1. In a succeeding test with inhalation of a β2-agonist immediately after NO inhalation, a more marked increase in SGaw was seen, to 1.2 ± 0.3 (kPa·s)−1 (p < 0.001). We conclude that NO inhaled at 80 ppm has no effect on airway tone in healthy volunteers, but modulates the response to MCh provocation toward bronchodilation. It exerts a weak bronchodilatory effect in bronchial asthma, but not in COPD.

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