Clinical correlates of an elevated diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide corrected for alveolar volume

Am J Med Sci. 1996 Jun;311(6):266-71. doi: 10.1097/00000441-199606000-00008.


The diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide is partially dependent on lung volume at which it is measured. As a consequence, the diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide is often indexed to the simultaneously measured lung volume (VA), giving rise to the term DL/VA. This reflects the diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide per unit area of lung parenchyma. The authors investigated the pulmonary function of 18 patients who had an elevated DL/VA in order to identify factors that could account for this abnormality. Sixteen of the 18 had a reduction in vital capacity. The vital capacity was reduced because of obesity, pleural disease, and diaphragmatic dysfunction. Eight of nine patients with a body mass index > 30 kg/m2 had a reduction in vital capacity. On the basis of these findings, we believe that an elevated DL/VA should alert the physician to the possibility of 1) an increase in pulmonary capillary blood volume (Vc) (obesity, polycythemia, negative pleural pressure), and 2) reduced VA that does not directly affect the pulmonary capillary bed (pleural disease, neuromuscular disease).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Volume
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carbon Monoxide / pharmacokinetics*
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Respiratory Paralysis / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vital Capacity


  • Carbon Monoxide