Effect of smoking cessation on pulmonary carbon monoxide diffusing capacity and capillary blood volume

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1992 Oct;146(4):959-64. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/146.4.959.


We studied 16 smokers, with a mean age of 41 yr (SD, 12 yr) and a mean DLCO of 81% predicted (SD, 19%), before and after smoking cessation. Two subjects were able to stop smoking for only 24 h, whereas 14 subjects abstained for 1 wk, 11 for 1 month, and five for 3 months. The initial mean DLCO in ml/min/mm Hg was 18.9 (SD, 4.6) after correction for COHb back pressure and the reduction in hemoglobin because of COHb. A week after smoking cessation there was a significant increase in DLCO, to 20.8 (SD, 5.4), p = 0.001. There was no further increase in DLCO at 1 month or at 3 months. In four subjects tested while they were still smoking and 24 h after smoking cessation, there was a significant increase in DLCO after correction for COHb, from 17.4 (SD, 1.5) to 19.8 (SD, 1.3), p = 0.02. These results indicate that after smoking cessation there is a rapid improvement in DLCO, suggesting that smoking had previously decreased DLCO. However, there may also be an irreversible component to the reduction of DLCO in some of the subjects in whom the DLCO remained abnormal even after continued smoking cessation for 1 month.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / blood supply*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Spirometry
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon Monoxide