Oxygen deficit is a sensitive measure of mild gas exchange impairment at inspired O2 between 12.5% and 21

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2020 Jul 1;319(1):L91-L94. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00003.2020. Epub 2020 May 13.


The oxygen deficit (OD) is the difference between the end-tidal alveolar Po2 and the calculated Po2 of arterial blood based on measured oxygen saturation that acts as a proxy for the alveolar-arterial Po2 difference. Previous work has shown that the alveolar gas meter (AGM100) can measure pulmonary gas exchange, via the OD, in patients with a history of lung disease and in normal subjects breathing 12.5% O2. The present study measured how the OD varied at different values of inspired O2. Healthy subjects were split by age (young 22-31; n = 23; older 42-90; n = 13). Across all inspired O2 levels (12.5, 15, 17.5, and 21%), the OD was higher in the older cohort 10.6 ± 1.0 mmHg compared with the young -0.4 ± 0.6 mmHg (P < 0.0001, using repeated measures ANOVA), the difference being significant at all O2 levels (all P < 0.0001). The OD difference between age groups and its variance was greater at higher O2 values (age × O2 interaction; P = 0.002). The decrease in OD with lower values of inspired O2 in both cohorts is consistent with the increased accuracy of the calculated arterial Po2 based on the O2-Hb dissociation curve and with the expected decrease in the alveolar-arterial Po2 difference due to a lower arterial saturation. The persisting higher OD seen in older subjects, irrespective of the inspired O2, shows that the measurement of OD remains sensitive to mild gas exchange impairment, even when breathing 21% O2.

Keywords: aging; alveolar-arterial oxygen difference; noninvasive; ventilation-perfusion mismatch.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen