Electrophysiologic Techniques for the Assessment of Respiratory Muscle Function

Respiratory muscle contraction depends on electrical activation of the muscles. Influenced both by involuntary and voluntary inputs, the electrical impulses originate in the respiratory neurons of the brainstem, are carried via motor nerves, transmit through neuromuscular junctions, and propagate throughout muscle membranes. Failure at any of these sites can result in dyscoordination and reversible or irreversible muscle weakness. The task of electrophysiologic tests is to assess the integrity of the respiratory neuromotor apparatus.

There are two main types of electrophysiologic tests of respiratory muscle function: electromyography and stimulation tests. These tests are interrelated, and they are related also to tests of mechanical action of the respiratory muscles, described elsewhere in this Statement.

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