Markers of lung disease in exhaled breath: nitric oxide

Biol Res Nurs. 2006 Apr;7(4):241-55. doi: 10.1177/1099800405286131.


Management of airway inflammation requires proper monitoring and treatment to improve long-term outcomes. However, achieving this goal is difficult, as current methods have limitations. Although nitric oxide (NO) was first identified 200 years ago, its physiological importance was not recognized until the early 1980s. Many studies have established the role of NO as an essential messenger molecule in body systems. In addition, studies have demonstrated a significant relationship between changes in exhaled NO levels and other markers of airway inflammation. The technique used to measure NO in exhaled breath is noninvasive, reproducible, sensitive, and easy to perform. Consequently, there is growing interest in the use of exhaled NO in the management of asthma and other pulmonary conditions. The purpose of this review is to promote a basic understanding of the physiologic actions of NO, measurement techniques, and ways that research findings might translate to future application in clinical practice. Specifically, the article will review the role of exhaled NO in regard to its historical background, mechanisms of action, measurement techniques, and implications for clinical practice and research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Bias
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Breath Tests / instrumentation
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Down-Regulation / physiology
  • Exhalation
  • Forced Expiratory Flow Rates
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases / immunology
  • Lung Diseases / metabolism
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide* / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide* / physiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Specimen Handling / instrumentation
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase