Bronchial hyper-responsiveness is a cardinal feature of asthma. To determine whether nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP) influences airway smooth muscle in response to exogenous stimuli, we examined the effect of NCPAP on aerosolized methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction in 16 stable asthmatic patients. The dose-response curve for each subject was measured by a log transformation and linear regression analysis as well as a formula fitted to the data points to obtain values for a (slope) and b (position). The PD20FEV1 significantly increased in patients receiving 8 cmH2O of NCPAP by one doubling dose compared with that in patients using sham pressure. NCPAP shifted the dose-response curves to be flatter, deviated upwards and to the right. The coefficient a, indicating bronchial reactivity, was significantly lower in patients receiving NCPAP. The coefficient b, indicating the bronchial sensitive threshold, was higher after applying NCPAP. In contrast, coefficients a and b did not change in subjects with sham pressure. NCPAP also significantly enhanced the bronchodilator effect of inhaled salbutamol in response to methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction. In summary, we have shown that NCPAP therapy improves bronchial smooth reactivity with an increase in PD20FEV1 and a reduction in the bronchial reactivity and bronchial sensitivity. Therefore, NCPAP may provide an adjuvant therapy in patients with acute bronchial asthma.
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