1. In forty non-smoking healthy subjects and seventy-two patients with left heart diseases measurements were made of the volume expired in the first second of a forced expiration (FEV1) and the total volume expired in a forced expiration (FVC) before and after inhalation of salbutamol. Before and after salbutamol the healthy subjects and patients also inhaled maximally an inspirate, the first part of which contained 133Xe and, during controlled expiration, the radioactivity of the expirate was measured and plotted against its volume. The resulting curves were divided into phases of different slope by eye, the point at which phase 3 changed to phase 4 being nominated the closing volume.
2. In forty non-smoking healthy subjects inhalation of salbutamol was followed by significant increase in FEV1 but FVC and closing volume did not change.
3. Change in posture from seated erect to supine in thirty of these healthy subjects was accompanied by significant reduction in FEV1 and FVC and as closing volume was not significantly different in the two positions the ratio closing volume/vital capacity was increased with recumbency.
4. In seventy-two patients with left heart diseases without a history of cough or wheeze, FEV1, FVC, closing volume and the ratio closing volume/vital capacity were significantly different from values in the healthy subjects. There was no significant difference between non-smokers and ex-smokers amongst the patients.
5. Significant increase in FEV1, FVC and reduction in closing volume and the ratio closing volume/vital capacity followed inhalation of salbutamol in patients with heart diseases but the values remained significantly different from those recorded in the healthy subjects.
6. In twenty patients with heart diseases, FEV1 and FVC were reduced by change in posture from seated erect to supine but the ratio closing volume/vital capacity and the regression with age of this ratio were not significantly changed by change in position.
7. In patients with heart diseases the ratio closing volume/vital capacity was significantly correlated with severity of breathlessness and length of symptom-history but not with left ventricular end-diastolic or pulmonary vein wedge pressures.