Single breath of CO2 as a clinical test of the peripheral chemoreflex

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1988 Jan;64(1):84-9. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1988.64.1.84.


Peripheral chemoreceptor responsiveness is usually examined clinically by hypoxic testing, but the usefulness of this approach is limited by safety considerations, and the interpretation of results may be confounded by the direct central nervous system effects of hypoxia. Therefore we examined the single-breath (SB) CO2 test to determine its reproducibility and applicability as a clinical test of peripheral chemoreceptor function. The technique involved the inhalation of a SB of 13% CO2 in air. The ventilatory response was determined from the increase in ventilation (VE) during the first 20 s after the test breath and from the difference in end-tidal PCO2 between the test breath and preceding control breaths. The peak increase in VE occurred during the second or third breath after the test breath, corresponding to a delay of approximately 10 s. The mean of 10 SB tests administered at 2- to 3-min intervals was taken as the subject's response. Five healthy subjects were tested in this manner on each of 6 consecutive days with the response having an interday coefficient of variation of 25 +/- 6% (SD). The response in 26 healthy females (aged 22-61 yr) was 0.32 +/- 0.11 l.min-1.Torr-1, and in 26 healthy males (aged 24-69 yr) the response was 0.38 +/- 0.14 (P NS). No significant correlation was found between the age of the subjects and their ventilatory response. Thirty-six of the subjects also underwent hyperoxic CO2 rebreathing tests, the response to which is dependent on central chemoreceptor function. No correlation was found between rebreathing and SB tests.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology*
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / drug effects
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Respiration*


  • Carbon Dioxide