Reference equations for the single-breath diffusing capacity. A cross-sectional analysis and effect of body size and age

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1985 Oct;132(4):806-13. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1985.132.4.806.


A longitudinal study was implemented in an unpolluted rural area of northern Italy (near Venice), before the start of the operation of a large oil-burning thermoelectric power plant, in order to investigate the effects of the future exposure to air pollution and to elucidate the natural history of obstructive airways diseases. During the first cross-sectional survey, a sample of the general population (n=3,300, 8 to 64 yr of age) performed several lung function tests, and information on risk factors and on the presence of respiratory symptoms were obtained by a standardized questionnaire. There were 712 subjects who were classified as normal on the basis of rigid criteria and who were able to perform satisfactorily a single-breath CO diffusing capacity (DLCOsb) test. The DLCOsb values showed an increase with height and age early in life and a later decrease with age. Two age groups were selected to determine an age at which DLCOsb stopped increasing and began to decline. Reference equations were computed (using age and height) in these 2 different age groups in each of the sexes. Similar equations were calculated for the total lung capacity derived from single-breath helium dilution measurements. The DLCOsb values in this study were higher than reported by other investigators. The method of selection of the study population, the strict criteria for normal, as well as technical, differences probably explain this finding. Reference equations for diffusing capacity corrected to lung volume (DL/VA) were computed only for adults (much greater than 20) in both sexes, because age and height coefficients in young subjects were insignificant.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Body Height*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity*
  • Total Lung Capacity