The effects of changing tidal volume (VT) and frequency (f) on the distribution of ventilation during high-frequency ventilation (HFV) were assessed from the washout of nitrogen-13 by positron emission tomography. Six dogs, anesthetized and paralyzed, were studied in the supine position during conventional ventilation (CV) and during HFV at f of 3, 6, and 9 Hz. In CV and HFV at 6 Hz, VT was selected to achieve eucapnic arterial partial pressure of CO2 (37 ± 3 Torr). At 3 and 9 Hz, VT was proportionally changed so that the product of VT and f remained constant and equal to that at 6 Hz. Mean residence time (MRT) of nitrogen-13 during washout was calculated for apical, midheart, and basal transverse sections of the lung and further analyzed for gravity-dependent, cephalocaudal and radial gradients. An index of local alveolar ventilation per unit of lung volume, or specific ventilation (spV̇), was calculated as the reciprocal of MRT. During CV vertical gradients of regional spV̇ were seen in all sections with ventral (nondependent) regions less ventilated than dorsal (dependent) regions. Regional nonuniformity in gas transport was greatest for HFV at 3 and 6 Hz and lowest at 9 Hz and during CV. During HFV, a central region at the base of the lungs was preferentially ventilated, resulting in a regional time-averaged tracer concentration equivalent to that of the main bronchi. Because the main bronchi were certainly receiving fresh gas, the presence of this preferentially ventilated area, whose ventilation increased with VT, strongly supports the hypothesis that direct convection of fresh gas is an important mechanism of gas transport during eucapnic HFV. Aside from the local effect of increasing overall lung ventilation, this central area probably served as an intermediate shuttle station for the transport of gas between mouth and deeper alveoli when VT was less than the anatomic dead space.
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