The Link between Reduced Inspiratory Capacity and Exercise Intolerance in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Low inspiratory capacity (IC), chronic dyspnea, and reduced exercise capacity are inextricably linked and are independent predictors of increased mortality in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is no surprise, therefore, that a major goal of management is to improve IC by reducing lung hyperinflation to improve respiratory symptoms and health-related quality of life. The negative effects of lung hyperinflation on respiratory muscle and cardiocirculatory function during exercise are now well established. Moreover, there is growing appreciation that a key mechanism of exertional dyspnea in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is critical mechanical constraints on tidal volume expansion during exercise when resting IC is reduced. Further evidence for the importance of lung hyperinflation comes from multiple studies, which have reported the clinical benefits of therapeutic interventions that reduce lung hyperinflation and increase IC. A reduced IC in obstructive pulmonary disease is further eroded by exercise and contributes to ventilatory limitation and dyspnea. It is an important outcome for both clinical and research studies.

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