1. To determine the validity of employing intrathoracic heat flux as a reflection of changes in bronchial blood flow, we used a thermal probe to record airstream temperatures within the tracheobronchial tree in five normal and five asthmatic subjects during isocapnic hyperventilation challenges with and without inflation of the lower limb bladders of a pressure suit.
2. During hyperpnoea, airstream temperatures fell progressively in both subject groups. When blood volume was acutely shifted from the legs into the thorax via antishock trousers, airstream temperatures within the tracheobronchial tree rose and were significantly higher than the temperatures recorded during hyperpnoea alone. In the normal subjects, once hyperpnoea ceased, the rate of airway re-warming was similar whether or not the antishock trousers were inflated. In the asthmatic subjects, however, shifting blood into the thorax attenuated the obstructive response to hyperpnoea and slowed the rate of re-warming.
3. These data demonstrate that changes in airway blood volume are reflected in fluctuations in intrathoracic heat exchange and that disruption of the end hyperpnoea thermal gradient attenuates the airway obstruction that follows hyperpnoea. Since the bronchial blood supply is the major source of heat to the airways, this circulation may play an important role in thermally induced asthma.