Dead Space and Its Effect on Alveolar Ventilation

Some of the air a person breathes never reaches the gas exchange areas but simply fills respiratory passages where gas exchange does not occur, such as the nose, pharynx, and trachea. This air is called dead space air because it is not useful for gas exchange.

On expiration, the air in the dead space is expired first, before any of the air from the alveoli reaches the atmosphere. Therefore, the dead space is very disadvantageous for removing the expiratory gases from the lungs.

Measurement of the Dead Space Volume. A simple method for measuring dead space volume is demonstrated by the graph in Figure 37-7. In making this measurement, the subject suddenly takes a deep breath of oxygen.This

Dead Space Physiology
Air expired (ml)

Figure 37-7

Record of the changes in nitrogen concentration in the expired air after a single previous inspiration of pure oxygen. This record can be used to calculate dead space, as discussed in the text.

Anatomic Versus Physiologic Dead Space. The method just described for measuring the dead space measures the volume of all the space of the respiratory system other than the alveoli and their other closely related gas exchange areas; this space is called the anatomic dead space. On occasion, some of the alveoli themselves are nonfunctional or only partially functional because of absent or poor blood flow through the adjacent pulmonary capillaries.Therefore, from a functional point of view, these alveoli must also be considered dead space. When the alveolar dead space is included in the total measurement of dead space, this is called the physiologic dead space, in contradistinction to the anatomic dead space. In a normal person, the anatomic and physiologic dead spaces are nearly equal because all alveoli are functional in the normal lung, but in a person with partially functional or nonfunctional alveoli in some parts of the lungs, the physiologic dead space may be as much as 10 times the volume of the anatomic dead space, or 1 to 2 liters. These problems are discussed further in Chapter 39 in relation to pulmonary gaseous exchange and in Chapter 42 in relation to certain pulmonary diseases.

Rate of Alveolar Ventilation fills the entire dead space with pure oxygen. Some oxygen also mixes with the alveolar air but does not completely replace this air. Then the person expires through a rapidly recording nitrogen meter, which makes the record shown in the figure. The first portion of the expired air comes from the dead space regions of the respiratory passageways, where the air has been completely replaced by oxygen. Therefore, in the early part of the record, only oxygen appears, and the nitrogen concentration is zero. Then, when alveolar air begins to reach the nitrogen meter, the nitrogen concentration rises rapidly, because alveolar air containing large amounts of nitrogen begins to mix with the dead space air. After still more air has been expired, all the dead space air has been washed from the passages, and only alveolar air remains. Therefore, the recorded nitrogen concentration reaches a plateau level equal to its concentration in the alveoli, as shown to the right in the figure. With a little thought, the student can see that the gray area represents the air that has no nitrogen in it; this area is a measure of the volume of dead space air. For exact quantification, the following equation is used:

Gray area x VE Pink area + Gray area where VD is dead space air and VE is the total volume of expired air.

Let us assume, for instance, that the gray area on the graph is 30 square centimeters, the pink area is 70 square centimeters, and the total volume expired is 500 milliliters. The dead space would be

Was this article helpful?

+2 -1
Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

Get My Free Ebook


  • Eleleta Tewelde
    Why is dead space disadvatageous?
    4 years ago
  • eyob
    How does dead space affect alveolar ventilation?
    4 years ago
  • demet
    Why is dead space very disadvantageous for removing expiratory gases from lungs?
    3 years ago
  • Jeffery
    What is the effects of increased anatomical dead space on alveolar ventilation?
    3 years ago
  • Tarja Pakarinen
    How does anatomical dead space volume affect alveolar ventilation?
    3 years ago
  • Frank
    How to calculate alveolar dead space and anatomic dead space?
    3 years ago
  • linda
    Why is dead space a concern in medical?
    2 years ago
  • diana achen
    What increasinging anatomical dead space does to ventilation efficiency?
    5 months ago
  • jouko
    Why does pulmonary respiratory rate change with dead space?
    4 months ago
  • Susanne
    What is the disadvantageous effect of the human pharynx?
    4 months ago
  • Ralph
    Where does deadspace ventilation occur?
    1 month ago
  • ubalda
    Is alveolar ventilation equal to dead space ventilation?
    10 days ago

Post a comment