We are developing a novel, noninvasive method for measuring the efficiency of pulmonary gas exchange in patients with lung disease. The patient wears an oximeter, and we measure the partial pressures of oxygen and carbon dioxide in inspired and expired gas using miniature analyzers. The arterial Po2 is then calculated from the oximeter reading and the oxygen dissociation curve, using the end-tidal Pco2 to allow for the Bohr effect. This calculation is only accurate when the oxygen saturation is <94%, and therefore, these normal subjects breathed 12.5% oxygen. When the procedure is used in patients with hypoxemia, they breathe air. The Po2 difference between the end-tidal and arterial values is called the "oxygen deficit." Preliminary data show that this index increases substantially in patients with lung disease. Here we report measurements of the oxygen deficit in 20 young normal subjects (age 19 to 31 yr) and 11 older normal subjects (47 to 88 yr). The mean value of the oxygen deficit in the young subjects was 2.02 ± 3.56 mmHg (means ± SD). This mean is remarkably small. The corresponding value in the older group was 7.53 ± 5.16 mmHg (means ± SD). The results are consistent with the age-related trend of the traditional alveolar-arterial difference, which is calculated from the calculated ideal alveolar Po2 minus the measured arterial Po2. That measurement requires an arterial blood sample. The present study suggests that this noninvasive procedure will be valuable in assessing the degree of impaired gas exchange in patients with lung disease.
Keywords: alveolar Pco2; alveolar Po2; alveolar gas; alveolar-arterial oxygen difference; oxygen dissociation curve.