Alveolar and bronchial exhaled nitric oxide in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Respir Med. 2010 Jul;104(7):1020-6. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2010.01.001. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Background: Fractional exhaled NO (Fe,NO) has yielded inconsistent results in COPD. Measuring exhaled NO at multiple flow rates however, allows to dissect exhaled NO in an alveolar (CAlv,NO) and bronchial (J'aw,NO) fraction, which are claimed to better reflect the bronchial and alveolar inflammation in COPD. We examined whether the use of Fe,NO, CAlv,NO and J'aw,NO may contribute to the clinical diagnosis of COPD.

Methods: One hundred and fifty one patients were included in this case-control design: 28 healthy nonsmokers, 39 healthy smokers, 55 COPD nonsmokers and 29 COPD smokers. Prior to spirometry, exhaled NO was measured at three different flow rates (50, 100 and 200 ml/s; NIOX-FLEX) from which Fe,NO, CAlv,NO and J'aw,NO were calculated.

Results: Mean Fe,NO, mean CAlv,NO and mean J'aw,NO of healthy individuals were not significantly different from COPD patients and none of these variables correlated with FEV(1). In both healthy and COPD patients, current smoking significantly reduced Fe,NO, J'aw,NO and CAlv,NO. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that in contrast to gender, age, BMI, GOLD stage and the use of inhaled corticosteroids, current smoking was the only variable affecting CAlv,NO. (p=0.0115)

Conclusion: We conclude that similar to single breath exhaled NO, exhaled NO at different flow rates does not contribute to the diagnosis of COPD in standard respiratory practice.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Belgium
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bronchi / metabolism
  • Bronchi / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Smoking / metabolism
  • Smoking / physiopathology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Nitric Oxide