In the healthy lung, ventilation is distributed heterogeneously due to factors such as anatomical asymmetry and gravity. This ventilation heterogeneity increases pathologically in conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and cystic fibrosis. In chronic heart failure, lung biopsy demonstrates evidence of peripheral lung fibrosis and small airways narrowing and distortion. We hypothesized that this would lead to increased ventilation heterogeneity. Furthermore, we proposed that rostral fluid shifts when seated patients lie supine would further increase ventilation heterogeneity. We recruited 30 ambulatory chronic heart failure patients (57 ± 10 years, 83% male, left ventricular ejection fraction 31 ± 12%) as well as 10 healthy controls (51 ± 13 years, 90% male). Heart failure patients were clinically euvolemic. Subjects underwent measurement of ventilation heterogeneity using the multiple-breath nitrogen washout technique in the seated position, followed by repeat measurements after 5 and 45 min in the supine position. Ventilation heterogeneity was calculated using the lung clearance index (LCI), Sacin and Scond which represent overall, acinar, and small conducting airway function, respectively. Lung clearance index (9.6 ± 1.2 vs. 8.6 ± 1.4 lung turnovers, P = 0.034) and Scond (0.029 ± 0.014 vs. 0.006 ± 0.016/L, P = 0.007) were higher in the heart failure patients. There was no difference in Sacin (0.197 ± 0.171 vs. 0.125 ± 0.081/L, P = 0.214). Measures of ventilation heterogeneity did not change in the supine position. This study confirms the presence of peripheral airway pathology in patients with chronic heart failure. This leads to subtle but detectable functional abnormalities which do not change after 45 min in the supine position.
- Heart failure
- Multiple-breath nitrogen washout
- Ventilation heterogeneity