Veterans with Gulf War Illness exhibit distinct respiratory patterns during maximal cardiopulmonary exercise.

Lindheimer JB; Cook DB; Klein-Adams JC; Qian W; Hill HZ; Lange G; Ndirangu DS; Wylie GR; Falvo MJ;

Plos One [PLoS One] 2019 Nov 12; Vol. 14 (11), pp. e0224833. Date of Electronic Publication: 20191112 (Print Publication: 2019).

Introduction: The components of minute ventilation, respiratory frequency and tidal volume, appear differentially regulated and thereby afford unique insight into the ventilatory response to exercise. However, respiratory frequency and tidal volume are infrequently reported, and have not previously been considered among military veterans with Gulf War Illness. Our purpose was to evaluate respiratory frequency and tidal volume in response to a maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test in individuals with and without Gulf War Illness.
Materials and Methods: 20 cases with Gulf War Illness and 14 controls participated in this study and performed maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test on a cycle ergometer. Ventilatory variables (minute ventilation, respiratory frequency and tidal volume) were obtained and normalized to peak exercise capacity. Using mixed-design analysis of variance models, with group and time as factors, we analyzed exercise ventilatory patterns for the entire sample and for 11 subjects from each group matched for race, age, sex, and height.
Results: Despite similar minute ventilation (p = 0.57, η2p = 0.01), tidal volume was greater (p = 0.02, η2p = 0.16) and respiratory frequency was lower (p = 0.004, η2p = 0.24) in Veterans with Gulf War Illness than controls. The findings for respiratory frequency remained significant in the matched subgroup (p = 0.004, η2p = 0.35).
Conclusion: In our sample, veterans with Gulf War Illness adopt a unique exercise ventilatory pattern characterized by reduced respiratory frequency, despite similar ventilation relative to controls. Although the mechanism(s) by which this pattern is achieved remains unresolved, our findings suggest that the components of ventilation should be considered when evaluating clinical conditions with unexplained exertional symptoms.