Study objective: Unloading the diaphragm, via mechanical ventilation (MV), results in significant diaphragmatic atrophy, contractile dysfunction, and oxidative stress in young adult animals. Since aging increases skeletal muscle susceptibility to atrophy and injury, we tested the hypothesis that MV-induced diaphragmatic contractile dysfunction would be exacerbated in aging rats.
Methods: Fisher 344/Brown Norway hybrid rats (4 months old [young] and 30 months old [old]) were assigned to either control or MV groups. MV rats were anesthetized, tracheostomized, and ventilated with 21% O2 for 12 h. Arterial BP, pH, and blood gas homeostasis were maintained in the MV animals throughout the experimental period. Animals in the control group were acutely anesthetized, and the diaphragms were immediately removed. Muscle strips from the mid-costal diaphragm were removed from each experimental animal, and contractile properties were studied in vitro.
Results: Compared to young control animals, aging (old control animals) was associated with a 13% decrease in maximal isometric tension (24.5 N/cm2 vs 21.3 N/cm2). Although, MV induced similar relative losses (24%) in diaphragmatic isometric tension in both young and old animals receiving MV, the combined effects of aging and MV resulted in a 34% decrement in diaphragmatic isometric tension compared to young control animals (24.5 N/cm2 vs 16.1 N/cm2).
Conclusions: These data do not support the hypothesis that aging exacerbates the relative MV-induced impairment in diaphragmatic isometric tension. Nonetheless, the additive effects of aging and MV have dramatic effects on diaphragmatic force reserve. This could exacerbate weaning difficulties in older individuals receiving MV.