Background: Nitric oxide (NO) shows differing concentrations in lower and upper airways. Patients after total laryngectomy are the only individuals, in whom a complete separation of upper and lower airways is guaranteed. Thus the objective of our study was to assess exhaled and nasal NO in these patients.
Methods: Exhaled bronchial NO (FENO) and nasal nitric oxide (nNO) were measured in patients after total laryngectomy (n = 14) and healthy controls (n = 24). To assess lung function we additionally performed spirometry. Co-factors possibly influencing NO, such as smoking, infections, and atopy were excluded.
Results: There was a markedly (p < 0.001) lower FENO in patients after total laryngectomy (median (range): 4 (1-22) ppb) compared to healthy controls 21 (9-41) ppb). In contrast, nNO was comparable between groups (1368 versus 1380 in controls) but showed higher variability in subjects after laryngectomy.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that either bronchial NO production in patients who underwent laryngectomy is very low, possibly due to alterations of the mucosa or oxidant production/inflammation, or that substantial contributions to FENO arise from the larynx, pharynx and mouth, raising FENO despite velum closure. The data fit to those indicating a substantial contribution to FENO by the mouth in healthy subjects. The broader range of nNO values found in subjects after laryngectomy may indicate chronic alteration or oligo-symptomatic inflammation of nasal mucosa, as frequently found after total laryngectomy.