1. A technique has been devised to measure the effect of stimulation frequency on the contraction force in an accessory muscle of respiration, the sternomastoid, in man. The frequency/force curve was found to be very similar to that of the quadriceps and adductor pollicis muscles.
2. Fatigue of the sternomastoid due to inspiratory loading or sustained maximum voluntary ventilation resulted in reduced force generation at low stimulation frequencies compared with maximum force. This type of fatigue frequently persisted for several hours.
3. If low frequency fatigue were to develop in patients with pulmonary disease it could have important consequences for the development of respiratory failure.