Effect of intercostal nerve blockade on respiratory mechanics and CO2 chemosensitivity at rest and exercise

B. R. Hecker, R. Bjurstrom, R. B. Schoene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Lower intercostal and abdominal muscles interact with other respiratory muscles to produce inspiration as well as expiration. Intercostal nerve blockade from T6-T12 was produced in seven healthy males to study its effect on: 1) supine pulmonary function, 2) inspiratory effort, 3) hypercapnic ventilatory response, including mouth occlusion pressures with and without an expiratory load, and 4) ventilation during progressive exercise on a cycle ergometer. Studies during control and blocked states were performed on different days. Lower chest and abdominal wall paralysis was documented with electromyography. Findings include a minimal decrease in peak expiratory flows with intercostal blockade (P = 0.02), but no other changes in supine resting pulmonary function tests, inspiratory effort, or hypercapnic ventilatory response slopes. Minute ventilation, respiratory rate, and V(T)/T(I) during exercise were also minimally increased, indicating an increase in the drive to breathe, which was unrelated to a change in metabolic rate. During exercise, total time to exhaustion was decreased following intercostal nerve blockade. Bilateral intercostal nerve blockade produced minimal decreases in peak expiratory flow at rest in supine subjects. During seated exercise, there was a slight increase in respiratory drive, probably due to minor alterations in the mechanics of breathing induced by intercostal blockade. The authors conclude that, in healthy young subjects, intercostal nerve blockade does not exert a clinically significant adverse affect on pulmonary mechanics and that ventilatory function is well-maintained even at extremes of ventilatory demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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