Volatile anesthetics have been shown to reduce lung resistance through dilation of constricted airways. In this study, we hypothesized that diffusion of inhaled anesthetics from airway lumen to smooth muscle would yield significant bronchodilation in vivo, and systemic recirculation would not be necessary to reduce lung resistance (RL) and elastance (EL) during sustained bronchoconstriction. To test this hypothesis, we designed a delivery system for precise timing of inhaled volatile anesthetics during the course of a positive pressure breath. We compared changes in RL, EL, and anatomic dead space (VD) in canines (N = 5) during pharmacologically induced bronchoconstriction with intravenous methacholine, and following treatments with: (1) targeted anesthetic delivery to VD and (2) continuous anesthetic delivery throughout inspiration. Both sevoflurane and isoflurane were used during each delivery regimen. Compared to continuous delivery, targeted delivery resulted in significantly lower doses of delivered anesthetic and decreased end-expiratory concentrations. However, we did not detect significant reductions in RL or EL for either anesthetic delivery regimen. This lack of response may have resulted from an insufficient dose of the anesthetic to cause bronchodilation, or from the preferential distribution of air flow with inhaled anesthetic delivery to less constricted, unobstructed regions of the lung, thereby enhancing airway heterogeneity and increasing apparent RL and EL.

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