ABSTRACT Background: The breathing intolerance index, BIT, a noninvasive derivation of the tension-time index of respiratory muscles, has been recently used to evaluate patients with respect to their need for noninvasive ventilation. Comparing the BIT index in different disorders with mild to moderate respiratory impairment, such as COPD and obesity, would be useful in determining differences in threshold for respiratory muscle fatigue amongst cohorts. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare control of ventilation and BIT in individuals with obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and control subjects free of cardiorespiratory disorders. Because change in posture can alter respiratory load and control of ventilation, variables were assessed in two postures. Methods: We assessed 142 subjects consisting of 81 with obesity, 42 with COPD, and 19 non-smoking healthy adults. All subjects underwent evaluation of pulmonary function, control of ventilation and BIT index [(Ti/Ttot) × (Vt/FVC)] in seated and supine postures. Findings: BIT index was significantly greater in seated posture in all 3 cohorts due primarily to an increase in Vt in this position. BIT index was similar in value amongst cohorts in both postures, but tended to be higher in patients with obesity and COPD. Conclusion: While BIT index is higher in seated posture, and tends to be higher in patients with obesity and COPD as compared to control subjects, discrimination between cohorts is not found in our study because of small inter-group variations of respiratory function amongst cohorts. Thus, in clinically stable patients whose vital capacities are mild to moderately reduced, the BIT index alone cannot be recommended as a predictive guide for initiating assisted ventilation for respiratory failure. Nevertheless, because it is easy to perform, and is comfortably tolerated by patients, its potential usefulness may be in periodic measurements to monitor its increase as respiratory reserve declines.
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