The relationship between alveolar oxygen tension and the single-breath carbon monoxide diffusing capacity

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1986 Apr;133(4):676-8. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1986.133.4.676.


The effects of alveolar oxygen tension (PAO2) on the single-breath carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (DLCO) were quantified and a factor was derived to accommodate for differences in PAO2 over commonly encountered altitudes and/or varying concentrations of oxygen in the test gas mixture (FIO2) We performed duplicate measurements of DLCO in 7 normal subjects with 6 different oxygen fractions (0.176, 0.196, 0.211, 0.22, 0.25, and 0.27). The PAO2 for each test was measured as the PO2 in the alveolar gas sample bag. DLCO varied inversely with PAO2 and changed by 0.35% for each mmHg change in PAO2 (r = -0.62, p less than 0.001). At an FIO2 of 0.25, PAO2 varied between subjects and was highly correlated with each subject's residual volume to total lung capacity ratio (r = -0.84, p less than 0.001). We suggest that laboratories can adjust the measured DLCO when PAO2 is not congruent to 120 mmHg by the following formula: DLCO (corrected = DLCO (measured) x [1.0 + 0.0035 (PAO2 - 120)].

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Monoxide*
  • Helium
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Partial Pressure
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity*
  • Total Lung Capacity


  • Helium
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Oxygen