Changes in chest wall structure and elasticity in elastase-induced emphysema

A. J. Thomas, G. S. Supinski, S. G. Kelsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The present study examined the effects of elastase-induced emphysema on the structure and elasticity of the chest wall. Specifically, we examined the passive pressure-volume relationship of the intact chest wall in anesthetized animals and the stress-strain relationship of the isolated rib cage devoid of respiratory musculature. The structure of the isolated rib cage was assessed by measuring its circumferential, anterior-posterior, and transverse dimensions, the angles of articulation of the ribs at the costovertebral and sternochondral joints, and the length of the sternum and individual ribs. Studies were performed in 10 Syrian Golden hamsters, 26-27 wk after intratracheal injection of elastase, and 9 saline-injected hamsters that served as controls. Mean functional residual capacity of emphysematous animals was 239% of the value obtained in control animals. In emphysematous animals, the pressure-volume curve of the chest wall was shifted parallel and to the left of the curve obtained in controls. That is, at any given esophageal pressure, lung volume was significantly greater in emphysematous animals compared with controls, but the slope of the pressure-volume relationship was similar in the two groups. In the relaxed position, the circumference, anterior-posterior, transverse, and rostral-caudal dimensions of the thorax were significantly greater in emphysematous than control animals. Although the length of the thoracic spinal column was the same in both groups, the length of the ribs and sternum were greater in emphysematous animals and the angles of articulation of the ribs with the vertebrae and sternum were altered. In emphysematous animals, the anterior-posterior dimension of the isolated rib cage (strain) with no externally applied force (stress) was significantly greater at all thoracic segments (T3, T5, T7) and remained greater at any given level of applied stress at T3. These data indicate that the resting position of the chest wall and its elastic properties are altered in animals with elastase-induced emphysema as a result of complex structural changes of the rib cage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1821-1829
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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