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2017 ERS/ATS standards for single-breath carbon …· alveolar concentration of carbon monoxide at the beginning of breath-holding. This method used the - [PDF Document] (1)

2017 ERS/ATS standards for single-breathcarbon monoxide uptake in the lung

Brian L. Graham1, Vito Brusasco2, Felip Burgos3, Brendan G. Cooper4,Robert Jensen5, Adrian Kendrick6, Neil R. MacIntyre7,Bruce R. Thompson8 and Jack Wanger9

Affiliations: 1Division of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, University of Saskatchewan,Saskatoon, SK, Canada. 2Dept of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy. 3Respiratory DiagnosticCenter, Hospital Clínic, Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), University ofBarcelona, Barcelona, Spain. 4Lung Function and Sleep, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Birmingham,Birmingham, UK. 5Pulmonary Division, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA. 6Dept of RespiratoryMedicine, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK. 7Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Duke UniversityMedical Center, Durham, NC, USA. 8Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, The Alfred Hospital andMonash University, Melbourne, Australia. 9Consultant, Rochester, MN, USA.

Correspondence: Brian L. Graham, Division of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, University ofSaskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, S7N 0W8. E-mail: [emailprotected]

@ERSpublicationsUpdated technical standards for measuring DLCO (TLCO) including the use of rapid gas analysersystems http://ow.ly/QUhv304PMsy

Cite this article as: Graham BL, Brusasco V, Burgos F, et al. 2017 ERS/ATS standards for single-breathcarbon monoxide uptake in the lung. Eur Respir J 2017; 49: 1600016 [https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00016-2016].

ABSTRACT This document provides an update to the European Respiratory Society (ERS)/AmericanThoracic Society (ATS) technical standards for single-breath carbon monoxide uptake in the lung that waslast updated in 2005. Although both DLCO (diffusing capacity) and TLCO (transfer factor) are valid termsto describe the uptake of carbon monoxide in the lung, the term DLCO is used in this document. A jointtaskforce appointed by the ERS and ATS reviewed the recent literature on the measurement of DLCO andsurveyed the current technical capabilities of instrumentation being manufactured around the world. Therecommendations in this document represent the consensus of the taskforce members in regard to theevidence available for various aspects of DLCO measurement. Furthermore, it reflects the expert opinion ofthe taskforce members on areas in which peer-reviewed evidence was either not available or wasincomplete. The major changes in these technical standards relate to DLCO measurement with systemsusing rapidly responding gas analysers for carbon monoxide and the tracer gas, which are now the mostcommon type of DLCO instrumentation being manufactured. Technical improvements and the increasedcapability afforded by these new systems permit enhanced measurement of DLCO and the opportunity toinclude other optional measures of lung function.

Copyright ©ERS 2017

This article has supplementary material available from erj.ersjournals.com

Received: Jan 04 2016 | Accepted after revision: July 24 2016

This report was approved by the ATS Board of Directors in August 2016, and endorsed by the ERS Science Council andExecutive Committee in September 2016. An executive summary of these standards is available as https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.E0016-2016.

Support statement: This report was supported by the American Thoracic Society (grant: FY2015) and the EuropeanRespiratory Society (grant: TF-2014-19). Funding information for this article has been deposited with the Open FunderRegistry.

Conflict of interest: None declared.

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BackgroundIt has been over 100 years since Marie Krogh developed a method to measure the single-breath uptake ofcarbon monoxide in the lungs [1]. Her experiment was designed to show that passive diffusion could explainoxygen transfer from the alveolar gas to the pulmonary capillary blood, but the methodology became thebasis of the test, now in common use, which is called diffusing capacity in North America but is moreappropriately called transfer factor in Europe. The abbreviation for transfer factor or diffusing capacity of thelung for carbon monoxide used in this document is DLCO, although TLCO is an equally valid term.

A standardised clinical method of determining the diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide wasdescribed by OGILVIE et al. [2] in 1957 using a tracer gas to determine both the alveolar volume and thealveolar concentration of carbon monoxide at the beginning of breath-holding. This method used thecollection of discrete exhaled gas samples from which gas concentrations were measured using gasanalysers that took up to several minutes to perform the measurements. In the remainder of thisdocument we will term these “classical” systems and calculations. The instrumentation for DLCO

measurement has advanced considerably since then, primarily through the use of rapidly responding gasanalyser (RGA) systems with gas analysers that have a 0–90% response time of ⩽150 ms. While RGAs arecapable of real-time, continuous gas analysis, most modern systems generally use this advancedinstrumentation only to simulate the classical collection of discrete samples of gas in a bag and discardmost of the sampled gas data. However, as discussed later, there are several aspects of DLCO measurementthat can be improved markedly using all of the data provided by this continuous measurement technology.

This document and the accompanying executive summary document [3] are an update of the 2005American Thoracic Society (ATS) and European Respiratory Society (ERS) standards [4] which, in turn,built upon previous standards [5, 6]. This update reflects the consensus opinions of both of these societiesand is designed to: 1) provide an update to the standards required for DLCO systems based on RGAsystems; and 2) provide new calculation standards that incorporate continuous gas analysis of the entireexhaled sample. It is recognised that classical equipment will remain in use for some time. However, somepreviously designed DLCO systems can be upgraded and re-engineered to meet these new RGA systemstandards. It is expected that as new DLCO systems are designed and built, they will meet and, in manycases, exceed these new standards. This document is meant to function as a stand-alone work but, forcertain issues, reference will be made to previous statements. The following recommendations will berestricted to the single-breath technique of measuring the uptake of carbon monoxide in the lung, sincethis is the most common methodology in use around the world.

MethodsAn application was submitted for a joint European Respiratory Society (ERS) and American ThoracicSociety (ATS) task force to update the 2005 DLCO standards [4] with a particular view to systems usingRGAs. The task force co-chairs were approved by the ERS and the ATS. Task force members werescientists and physicians with experience in international guidelines, clinical experience of routine lungfunction testing and specialist knowledge of gas transfer including research publications. Potential conflictsof interest were disclosed and vetted. The task force consisted of five members of the task force for the2005 DLCO standards and four new members. A search using PubMed for literature published between2000 and 2015 containing various terms related to diffusing capacity and transfer factor yielded 3637citations. Task force members reviewed the abstracts and identified 113 as relevant to the project and afurther 99 as potentially relevant. All manufacturers of pulmonary function equipment to measure DLCO

were sent a survey requesting equipment specifications. Eight of 13 manufacturers responded. A survey ofDLCO equipment specifications published on the manufacturers’ websites was also conducted. Using the2005 standards as a base document, revisions and additions were made on a consensus basis. Therecommendations in this document represent the consensus of task force members in regard to theevidence available for various aspects of DLCO measurement (as cited in the document). Furthermore, itreflects the expert opinion of the task force members in areas in which peer-reviewed evidence was eithernot available or incomplete. The task force also identified areas and directions for future research anddevelopment where evidence is lacking.

Determinants of carbon monoxide uptakeThe volume of carbon monoxide in the alveolar space is the product of the alveolar volume (VA) and thealveolar carbon monoxide fraction (FACO; i.e. the fractional concentration of carbon monoxide in thealveolar space). Thus, at a constant volume, the transfer of carbon monoxide from the lungs into the bloodis VA·ΔFACO/Δt. Furthermore, in the absence of any carbon monoxide back-pressure in the blood, thetransfer of carbon monoxide is equal to the product of the alveolar carbon monoxide tension (PACO;i.e. the partial pressure of carbon monoxide) and the DLCO, which is the conductance of carbonmonoxide from the inspired test gas in the alveolar space to binding with haemoglobin (Hb) in the blood

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(i.e. flow = pressure × conductance). The combination of these two formulae gives equation 1, which canbe manipulated to give equation 2 for the calculation of DLCO.



The ERS recommends expressing DLCO in SI units (mmol·min−1·kPa−1) while the ATS prefers traditionalunits (mL·min−1·mmHg−1) under standard temperature, pressure and dry conditions (STPD). Values in SIunits can be multiplied by 2.987 to obtain values in traditional units.

The capacity of the lung to exchange gas across the alveolar–capillary interface is determined by itsstructural and functional properties [1, 7–25]. The structural properties include the following: lung gasvolume; the path length for diffusion in the gas phase; the thickness and area of the alveolar capillarymembrane; any effects of airway closure; and the volume of Hb in capillaries supplying ventilated alveoli.The functional properties include the following: absolute levels of ventilation and perfusion; the uniformityof the distribution of ventilation relative to the distribution of perfusion; the composition of the alveolargas; the diffusion characteristics of the membrane; the concentration and binding properties of Hb in thealveolar capillaries; and the carbon monoxide and oxygen tensions in the alveolar capillaries in that part ofthe pulmonary vascular bed which exchanges gas with the alveoli.

The process of carbon monoxide transfer from the environment to the pulmonary capillary blood includessix steps, as follows: 1) bulk-flow delivery of carbon monoxide to the airways and alveolar spaces;2) mixing and diffusion of carbon monoxide in the alveolar ducts, air sacs and alveoli; 3) transfer ofcarbon monoxide across the gaseous to liquid interface of the alveolar membrane; 4) mixing and diffusionof carbon monoxide in the lung parenchyma and alveolar capillary plasma; 5) diffusion across the red-cellmembrane and within the interior of the red blood cell; 6) chemical reaction with constituents of bloodHb [13–19].

The process of carbon monoxide uptake can be simplified into two transfer or conductance properties:1) membrane conductivity (DM), which reflects the diffusion properties of the alveolar capillarymembrane; and 2) binding of carbon monoxide and Hb. The latter can be represented as the product ofthe carbon monoxide–Hb chemical reaction rate (θ) and the volume of alveolar capillary blood (VC). Sincethese conductances are in series [17], these properties are related as shown in equation 3.

1=DLCO ¼ 1=DM þ 1=uVC (3)

A number of physiological changes can affect DM or θVC to influence DLCO. For example, as the lunginflates DM increases (largely due to increasing alveolar surface area), while VC effects are variable (due todifferential stretching and flattening of alveolar and extra-alveolar capillaries) [13, 20–27]. The net effect ofthese changes is that DLCO tends to increase as the lung inflates but the change in DLCO is proportionally lessthan the change in VA [22]. Exercise, the supine position and Müller manoeuvres (inspiratory efforts againsta closed glottis) can all recruit and dilate alveolar capillaries, thereby increasing VC and DLCO [28–34].Alveolar–capillary recruitment also occurs in the remaining lung tissue following surgical resection, since thecardiac output now flows through a smaller capillary network. This causes a less than expected loss of VC forthe amount of lung tissue removed. In contrast, Valsalva manoeuvres (expiratory efforts against a closedglottis) can reduce VC and thereby reduce DLCO [32].

The measurement of carbon monoxide uptake is also affected by the distribution of ventilation withrespect to DM or θVC (i.e. carbon monoxide uptake can only be measured in lung units into which carbonmonoxide was inspired and subsequently expired) [18, 19, 35, 36]. This is particularly important indiseases such as emphysema, where the inhaled carbon monoxide may preferentially go to thebetter-ventilated regions of the lung and the subsequently measured carbon monoxide uptake will bedetermined primarily by the uptake properties of these regions. Under these conditions, the tracer gasdilution used to calculate VA will also reflect primarily regional dilution and underestimate the lungvolume as a whole. The resulting calculated DLCO value should thus be considered as primarily reflectingthe gas-exchange properties of the better ventilated regions of the lung.

In addition to these physiological and distributional effects on DLCO, a number of pathological states canaffect DM, θVC, or both and thereby affect DLCO [8, 9, 37–46]. Measurement of DLCO is used when any ofthese pathological processes are suspected or need to be ruled out. Moreover, measuring changes in DLCO

over time in these processes is a useful way of following the course of the disease.

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Gas analysers and general equipmentSystem designDescriptions of the apparatus and general instructions for performing the single-breath diffusing capacitymanoeuvre are available elsewhere [2, 6, 47–50]. Equipment in clinical use varies widely in complexity butthe basic principles are the same. All systems have a source of test gas, a method of measuring inspiredand expired volume over time and a method of measuring carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentration.Classical discrete-sample gas-analyser DLCO systems usually display only volume over time but RGA DLCO

systems also provide a continuous recording of carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentration during theentire test manoeuvre (figure 1).

Equipment requirementsThe performance standards for DLCO equipment are summarised in table 1.

Flow and volume analysersAny error in measuring flow and subsequently calculating volume will produce a correspondingly equalerror in DLCO. However, with continuing improvement in flow measurement technologies, improvedaccuracy is being achieved. The flow measurement accuracy over a range of −10 to +10 L·s−1 must bewithin ±2%. For calibration with a 3-L syringe, which has a specified maximum error of ±0.5% (i.e. 2.985to 3.015 L), the calibration volume must be within ±2.5% which is equivalent to an error tolerance of⩽75 mL. The volume measurement accuracy must be maintained over the range of gas compositions andconcentrations likely to be encountered during DLCO tests.

Gas analysersFor classical discrete sample calculations of DLCO, only the ratios of alveolar to inhaled carbon monoxideand tracer gas concentrations are needed. Thus, the analysers must primarily be able to produce an outputfor measured exhaled carbon monoxide and tracer gas that is a linear extrapolation between the inhaled(test gas) concentrations and zero (no carbon monoxide or tracer gas present in the analysers) [51, 52]. Themeasurement of carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentrations is also a static measurement whenconsidering a classical discrete sample calculation of DLCO. Analyser response time is not an issue and thetime of gas sample collection is measured separately. Gas concentration digital signal conditioning is notrequired to compensate for the response time when calculating DLCO using static measurements.

When nondispersive, infrared carbon monoxide RGAs began to be used to construct a virtual gas samplefrom flow and gas concentration data, rather than collecting a physical sample of exhaled gas, nospecifications were mandated other than for the linearity of the gas analysers [5]. However, with RGAsthere is both a lag time (due to the travel of the sampled gas through the sampling tube to the analyserchamber) and an analyser response time (the time to reach 90% of the actual measurement from the timethe gas sample reaches the analyser) to be considered. As such, the gas concentration signal must beprecisely shifted in time to align with the flow signal (figure 2).

RGA response timeThe response time of the RGA will determine how accurately the analyser is able to track the true carbonmonoxide and tracer gas concentrations. The most rapid changes in concentration occur at the start of test








e L


s c






% (




Time s

Tracer gas



20 4 6 8 10 12 14 16


FIGURE 1 Diagram of lung volume and gas concentration during the single-breath manoeuvre to measure theuptake of carbon monoxide. Whereas classical DLCO systems only display the volume–time graph, rapid gasanalyser (RGA) DLCO systems also display the carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentrations throughout thesingle-breath manoeuvre. Reproduced from [4].

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gas inhalation and at the start of exhalation following the breath-hold. Even after the application of anappropriate time shift (see below) to correct for lag time and analyser response time, there will be aresidual error in DLCO due to the finite response time. For every 100 ms increase in the 0–90% response

TABLE 1 Equipment specifications and performance standards

DLCO System Specification

Required Recommended

Rapid gas analyser systemsAnalyser specification0–90% response time (see figure 2) ⩽150 msMaximum nonlinearity ±1% of full scaleAccuracy Within ±1% of full scaleInterference from 5% carbon dioxide or 5% water vapour ⩽10 ppm error in [CO]Drift for carbon monoxide ⩽10 ppm over 30 sDrift for tracer gas ⩽0.5% of full scale over 30 s

Flow accuracy Within ±2% over the range of−10 to +10 L·s−1

Volume accuracy (3-L syringe check) Within ±75 mLBarometric pressure sensor accuracy Within ±2.5%Ability to perform a QA check (3-L syringe; ATPmode; inhaling ∼2 L test gas)

Calculate total volume (VA) of 3±0.3 L andDLCO of <0.5 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 or

<0.166 mmol·min−1·kPa−1

Sample and store data with adequate resolution Digitise at ⩾100 Hzper channel with ⩾14 bit resolution

Digitise at 1000 Hz

Monitor and report end-expiratory tracer gas and carbonmonoxide concentrations (alert operator if washout isincomplete)


Compensate for end-expiratory gas concentrations priorto test gas inhalation in the calculation of VA and DLCO


Ensure proper alignment of gas concentration signals and theflow signal


Measure anatomic dead-space using the Fowlermethod (see figure 6)


Display a graph of gas concentration versus expired volume toconfirm the point of dead-space washout and report theamount of manual adjustment if done (see figure 4)


Measure VA using all of the tracer gas data from the entiremanoeuvre in the mass balance equation


Report the DLCO adjusted for the change in PAO2 due tobarometric pressure


Ability to input simulated digital test data and compute DLCO, VA,TLC, VD

Calculate values within 2%of actual values

Report the DLCO adjusted for the change in PAO2 due to PACO2, if thecarbon dioxide concentration signal is available


Classical discrete sample systems

Analyser specificationMaximum nonlinearity ±1% of full scaleAccuracy Within ±1% of full scaleInterference from 5% carbon dioxide or 5% water vapour ⩽10 ppm error in [CO]Drift for carbon monoxide ⩽10 ppm over 30 sDrift for tracer gas ⩽0.5% of full scale over 30 s

Flow accuracy Within ±2% over the range of−10 to +10 L·s−1

Volume accuracy (3-L syringe check) Within ±75 mLAbility to perform a QA check (3-L syringe; ATP mode;inhaling ∼2 L test gas)

Calculate total volume (VA) of 3±0.3 Land DLCO of <0.5 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 or

<0.166 mmol·min−1·kPa−1

DLCO: diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide; [CO]: carbon monoxide concentration; QA: quality assurance; ATP: ambient temperature,pressure and humidity; VA: alveolar volume; PAO2: alveolar oxygen tension; PACO2: alveolar carbon dioxide tension; TLC: total lung capacity;VD: dead-space volume. #: Implemented means that the manufacturer has implemented the designated functionality in the DLCO system.

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time, the error in DLCO increases by about 0.7% [53]. Based on the above considerations, the 0–90%response time for RGAs used in DLCO systems must be ⩽150 ms.

Response time can be improved by reducing the volume of the analyser chamber and increasing thesample aspiration rate: however, such measures can cause a deterioration of the signal by creating morenoise. The use of signal conditioning to simulate a more rapid analyser response may also introduce morenoise and errors into the signal. Digital conditioning techniques should only be used to digitally enhanceresponse time if they do not compromise signal quality and accuracy and serve to preserve or improveDLCO measurement accuracy.

Linearity and accuracyThe linearity of gas concentration signals is of primary importance in measuring DLCO since the ratios ofthe gas concentrations are considered in the classical calculations [50, 52]. The error in DLCO measurementdue to nonlinearity in these signals depends on the size of the lungs and the rate of uptake of carbonmonoxide. A nonlinearity of 0.5% of full scale can cause errors ranging from 0.5% in a subject with a DLCO

of 13.4 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 (40 mL·min−1·mmHg−1) to 1.7% in a subject with a DLCO of3.35 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 (10 mL·min−1·mmHg−1) [53]. The manufacturer specification for analyser linearityis that any nonlinearity must not exceed 0.5% of full scale once zero and full scale values have been set. Theaccuracy of the gas analyser signal also becomes important when measuring the residual backgroundalveolar carbon monoxide concentration and the washout of tracer gas from the previous DLCO manoeuvre.The output of the gas analyser must be accurate to within ±1% of full scale.

Interference and noiseNondispersive, infrared carbon monoxide analysers typically have some cross sensitivity to carbon dioxideand water vapour. Strategies to reduce and/or compensate for cross sensitivity are required such that thewater vapour and carbon dioxide in exhaled gas (up to 5% each; i.e. water vapour pressure (PH2O)6.28 kPa/47 mmHg) contribute a less than 10 ppm error in the measured carbon monoxide signal.Measuring the exhaled gas from the subject prior to the inhalation of test gas can also provide an offsetdue to carbon dioxide and water vapour measurements that can be used to adjust the concentration signal.

DriftGas analysers should have only minimal drift in zero and gain, such that output is stable over the testinterval. Gas analyser drift must be ⩽10 ppm over 30 s for carbon monoxide and ⩽0.5% of full scale over30 s for tracer gas. It is recommended that manufacturers provide an optional test mode to display themeasured gas concentrations so that stability can be confirmed. Any drift must be determined bycomparing the carbon monoxide and tracer values measured in room air immediately prior to andimmediately following the single-breath manoeuvre. The gas concentration signals used in the calculationof DLCO must be compensated for drift, assuming a linear change over the measurement interval.

Aspiration flowDepending upon the design of the breathing circuit, the gas analyser sampling port and the gas analyseraspiration flow, gas may be entrained into the sampling line from room air or from the test gas when the





w L




Lag timeCarbon monoxide







% (



le) 90









00 200 400

Time ms600 800 1000

FIGURE 2 Lag and response times for carbon monoxide: the response time of the analyser was estimated byrapidly switching the gas being sampled from zero to full-scale carbon monoxide. The change in the flowsignal shows the time at which the switch was made from medical air to test gas. The lag time, the 0–90%response time and the optimal shift are calculated from the resulting response curve.

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exhaled flow decreases to near zero at the end of exhalation. Clearly, when the subject’s exhaled flow dropsbelow the aspiration flow, the sample will entrain other gas that is not part of the exhaled gas. DLCO

instrument manufacturers are required to determine the lowest exhaled flow at which the gas samplingline will not entrain gas other than exhaled gas. This flow must be reported in the system specifications. Inthe analysis of the exhaled gas concentration data, measurements of gas concentration below the specifiedflow must not be included in either the determination of washout of tracer gas from a previous manoeuvre(see the section on interval between manoeuvres below) or the calculation of absolute end-expiratory lungvolume (Vee) in equations 22 and 25 below.

DigitisationIn order for the digitised signal to accurately track the gas concentration signal and in order to provideadequate opportunity for signal processing for data alignment, the minimum signal sampling rate must be⩾100 Hz per channel: however, a rate of 1000 Hz is recommended. The analogue to digital converterresolution must be ⩾14 bits.

Other equipment considerationsCircuit resistance must be <1.5 cmH2O·L

−1·s−1 up to 6 L·s−1 flow. If a demand-flow regulator is used on acompressed test gas cylinder, the maximal inspiratory pressure required for 6 L·s−1 inspiratory flowthrough both the circuit and the valve must be <9 cmH2O.

Equipment dead-space volume (VDequip) for both inspired test gas and the alveolar sample must be knownand their role in all data computation algorithms must be identified and documented. For adults, theVDequip including the breathing circuit proximal to the gas analyser sampling point, filter and mouthpiecemust be <200 mL. Smaller dead-space volumes are recommended for paediatric applications and peoplewith a vital capacity (VC) of less than 2 L.

The system must be leak free; this is particularly important for DLCO systems that aspirate gas samplesthrough the gas analyser at sub-atmospheric pressures. When samples are aspirated, leaks in tubing,fittings and other locations allow room air to be drawn into the gas circuit, thus diluting the sample andreducing the concentrations of carbon monoxide and tracer gases.

Equipment calibration and quality controlThe considerations for equipment calibration and quality control are illustrated in table 2. There are anumber of regular procedures to apply, summarised as follows:

1) Flow and gas analysers must be zeroed prior to each manoeuvre. After each manoeuvre, a new zeroingprocedure must be carried out to account for analyser drift during the previous test.

2) Each day, prior to testing, there must be a volume calibration check with a 3-L syringe [54]. The syringeshould be discharged at least three times to give a range of flow rates varying between 0.5 and 12 L·s−1

(with 3-L injection times of ∼6 s and ∼0.5 s, respectively). The volume at each flow rate must meet anaccuracy requirement of ⩽2.5% error. For devices using disposable flow sensors, a new sensor from thesupply used for patient tests must be tested each day. The calibration check may need to be repeatedduring the day if ambient conditions change. Newer systems monitor ambient conditions and makeadjustments as necessary or produce a calibration alert when needed. Older systems may require acalibration check if room temperature changes by more than 3 °C or relative humidity changes by morethan 15% (absolute). Operators should also perform a calibration check whenever they notice significant

TABLE 2 Equipment calibration schedule

Calibration technique Frequency

Flow analyser zeroing Before each testGas analyser zeroing Before/after each testVolume calibration check DailyBiologic control WeeklyCalibration syringe DLCO check WeeklyCalibration syringe leak test MonthlyLinearity check (calibration syringe or simulator) Monthly

DLCO: diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide.

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discrepancies between the inspired volume (VI) and VC, or between VA and total lung capacity (TLC),which might suggest volume calibration problems.

3) Each week, or whenever problems are suspected, the following procedures must be followed. First, forthose DLCO systems using a volume-type spirometer, a spirometer leak test should be performed accordingto the manufacturer’s specifications. Secondly, a DLCO test should be performed with a calibrated 3-L syringeby attaching the syringe to the instrument in the normal patient test mode. The syringe should then beemptied, filled with 3 L of test gas and emptied into the mouthpiece after the 10 s breath-hold. Thecalculation of VA must be within 300 mL of 3 L times the STPD to BTPS (body temperature, ambientpressure, saturated with water vapour conditions) correction factor, which is 863/(PB−47), where PB is thebarometric pressure. It should be noted that a 3-L calibration syringe will have an additional dead-spacewhich, depending on the connection to the mouthpiece, is typically ∼50 mL and must be considered in theVA calculation. The absolute value of the calculated DLCO must be <0.166 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 or<0.5 mL·min−1·mmHg−1. Thirdly, a test should be performed on a “standard subject” (biological control) orsimulator [55]. Standard subjects are nonsmokers who have been found to have a consistently repeatableDLCO (e.g. healthy laboratory personnel). If the DLCO in a standard subject varies either by >12% or by>1 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 (>3 mL·min−1·mmHg−1) from the mean of previous values, the test must be repeated.A study of the long-term intersession variability of DLCO has found that biological control deviations either>12% or >3 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 from the average of the first six tests indicate that the instrument is notwithin quality control limits and must be carefully evaluated before further patient testing [56]. For a digitalsystem check of the DLCO calculation algorithm, standardised digital data for flow, volume and carbonmonoxide and tracer gas concentration will be developed by the task force and made available with a samplerate of 1 kHz as an xml or csv file. It is strongly recommended that manufacturers provide the ability toinput data from such a file and generate test results to compare measured versus known DLCO and VA values.For systems failing the above testing, the DLCO system must be evaluated carefully for the possibility of leaks,nonlinear analyser function, and volume and time inaccuracy, etc. When sufficient data on a standardindividual have been obtained, laboratories should establish their own outlier criteria to serve as indicators ofpotential problems with their DLCO systems. Manufacturers are encouraged to develop automatedquality-control software to assist and enhance the utility of these steps.

4) Each month a leak test of the 3-L calibration syringe should be performed. If the calibration syringedoes not have a volume scale on the shaft, mark 50 mL below full by measuring the excursion of the shaftfrom 0 to 3 L and marking it at a distance that is 0.017 of the full excursion. Fill the syringe and place astopper at the syringe input. Push the syringe in to the 50 mL mark (which generates a pressure of about17 cmH2O), hold for 10 s and release. If the syringe does not return to within 10 mL of the full position, itshould be sent for repair. The procedure is then repeated starting with the syringe at 50 mL below full,applying the stopper and pulling the syringe to the full position.

5) Each month, gas-analyser linearity should be assessed. A straightforward approach is to measure knownserial dilutions of the test gas [57], or to measure the concentration of a separate high-precision test gashaving a certificate of analysis. Manufacturers must be encouraged to automate this function. For systemswith independent measurement of carbon monoxide and tracer gas, the analyser linearity may also beassessed by comparing the ratio of carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentration to arbitrary dilutions oftest gas with room air. A third type of calibration syringe test, which differs from the volume check inpoint two and the DLCO check in point three by using the 3-L syringe in ambient temperature, pressureand humidity (ATP) mode, may also reveal problems with analyser linearity. With approximately 1 L ofair in the syringe, the test begins by filling the remaining volume with test gas. Following a 10 s“breath-hold” the syringe is then emptied. The calculation of VA must be within 300 mL of 3 L with thesyringe dead-space being used for the anatomic dead-space in the VA calculation. The absolute value ofDLCO must be <0.166 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 or <0.5 mL·min−1·mmHg−1. A review of quality control data forfour different DLCO systems between 2006 and 2015 using this procedure found only four outlier pointswhere |DLCO| was >0.13 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 (>0.4 mL·min−1·mmHg−1). The same data showed that VA wasconsistently within 3±0.3 L for the four systems (unpublished data from B.R. Thompson). Gas mixing inthe syringe can be improved by using low flow rates and extending the breath-hold time. The effects ofincomplete mixing in the syringe can be minimised by using a larger sample volume. In the absence of aDLCO simulator and high-precision test gases, system checks must be performed using a 3-L calibratingsyringe in ATP mode. Manufacturers must provide this test option, which will be the same as the usualtesting procedure for a patient, with the exception that VA will be reported in ATP rather than BTPS.

6) A record of equipment checks and standard subject tests should be dated and kept in a laboratory logbook or digital file folder. Manufacturers are encouraged to provide software and test equipment optionsfor quality control measurement and quality control data management. In addition, manufacturers mayprovide equipment-specific, quality-control measures in addition to the foregoing points. If water vapour

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permeable tubing is used to either remove water vapour or equilibrate water vapour with room air, suchtubing must be replaced according to manufacturer recommendations to ensure that it is functioningproperly. Chemical gas analyser cells will have a replacement schedule. Manufacturers may also havepreventative maintenance schedules for various other system components (e.g. balloon valves) which willrequire testing and replacement as necessary.

Quality control for RGA systemsModern DLCO systems are completely integrated and do not use stand-alone gas analysers that can betested separately. Specifications for manufacturers are required to facilitate a uniform testing andcalibration strategy across all systems. Quality-control requirements include analogue testing with devicessuch as a simulator [58], the option to operate in full ATP mode and a digital calibration option to verifythe computational algorithms. The digital calibration option should use simulated flow, carbon monoxideconcentration and tracer gas concentration data from standardised manoeuvres with a known DLCO.

Infection controlThe major goal of infection control is to prevent the transmission of infection to patients and staff duringpulmonary function testing. The recommendations in the ATS/ERS documents for spirometry and generalconsiderations for pulmonary function testing also apply to DLCO equipment and procedures [59–61].

Standardisation issues in the single-breath testing techniqueThe single-breath determination of DLCO involves measuring the uptake of carbon monoxide from thelung over a breath-holding period. To minimise variability as much as possible, the following specificationsfor the standardisation of testing techniques are provided.

Patient conditionFactors that affect VC (e.g. exercise, body position, Hb affinity for carbon monoxide, alveolar oxygentension (PAO2), and level of carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb)) must be standardised. If clinically acceptable,the subject should not breathe supplemental oxygen for ⩾10 min prior to a DLCO manoeuvre. In addition,when using exercise or the supine position to assess the ability of the lung to increase gas transfer [18, 28–31], the level of exercise and/or the duration of the supine position must be noted. Before beginning thetest, the manoeuvres must be demonstrated and the subject carefully instructed. Furthermore, the subjectmust be seated comfortably throughout the test procedure, which must be performed at a stable,comfortable temperature within the manufacturer’s equipment specifications.

COHb produces an acute, reversible decrease in DLCO [62–66], largely due to its effects on carbonmonoxide back-pressure and the “anaemia effect” from decreased Hb binding sites for test gas carbonmonoxide. As cigarette smoking is the most common source of COHb, subjects must be asked to refrainfrom smoking or other sources of carbon monoxide exposure on the day of the test. The time of the lastcigarette smoked must be recorded and noted for the interpretation. A correction for carbon monoxideback-pressure must be made for recent or heavy cigarette smoking (see the section on adjustment forCOHb concentration and carbon monoxide back-pressure below). Air pollution may also result in higherCOHb levels and exposure to high levels of air pollution should be noted.

Inspiratory manoeuvresOnce the mouthpiece and nose clip are in place, tidal breathing must be carried out for a sufficient time toassure that the subject is comfortable with the mouthpiece and that the nose clips and mouthpiece areused appropriately with no leaks. The DLCO manoeuvre begins with unforced exhalation to residualvolume (RV). In obstructive lung disease, where exhalation to RV may require a prolonged period, areasonable recommendation is that this portion of the manoeuvre must be limited to <12 s. Exhalationtimes of up to 12 s will allow most patients with airflow obstruction to exhale sufficiently such that theycan achieve a maximal VC for the subsequent inhalation of test gas. Submaximal inhalation occurs mostfrequently in patients with airflow obstruction who are not given adequate time to exhale prior to theinhalation of test gas.

At RV, the subject’s mouthpiece is connected to a source of test gas, and the subject inhales rapidly to TLC.

A submaximal inspired volume of test gas (i.e. less than the known VC) can affect carbon monoxideuptake depending upon whether it is a result of an initial suboptimal exhalation to RV (manoeuvreperformed at TLC) or whether it is due to a suboptimal inhalation from RV (manoeuvre performed belowTLC) [22–25]. In the former case, the calculated VA and DLCO will accurately reflect lung volume and thecarbon monoxide uptake properties of the lung at TLC. In the latter case, the VA will be reduced andDLCO measurement will be affected.

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Due to these effects, it is important that the inspired volume of test gas, VI, be as close to the known VCas possible. Data from a large patient population have shown that the VI during DLCO measurementaverages ∼90% of the VC [22]. Since the introduction of the 2005 guidelines and subsequentimplementation of quality-control checks by equipment manufacturers, there has been an improvement intest quality such that 90% of the largest known VC as the lower limit of acceptability for VI has beenshown to be attainable [67]. Furthermore, as noted above, VI will be improved by allowing up to 12 s forexhalation prior to inhalation of test gas. VI must be at least 90% of the largest VC in the same pulmonaryfunction testing session. However, a manoeuvre may be deemed to be acceptable if VI is within 85% of thelargest VC and the VA is within 200 mL or 5% (whichever is greater) of the highest VA among acceptableDLCO manoeuvres.

The inspiration must be rapid, since the DLCO calculations assume instantaneous lung filling [27, 68–74].Slower lung filling decreases the amount of time the lung is at full inspiration with a consequent reduction incarbon monoxide uptake. Although various sample timing techniques address the issue of lung filling andemptying time, inspiration of test gas should be sufficiently rapid such that that 85% of VI must be inspiredin <4.0 s. If longer inspiratory times are needed to inspire 85% of VI, this must be noted on the test report.

Breath-hold and expiratory manoeuvresDuring the breath-hold, both the Valsalva and Müller manoeuvres (expiratory or inspiratory efforts againsta closed glottis, respectively) can affect DLCO calculation by decreasing or increasing thoracic bloodvolume, respectively, resulting in a corresponding decrease or increase in DLCO, respectively, for eachmanoeuvre [32, 75, 76]. The intrapulmonary pressure during the breath-hold should thus be nearatmospheric and this is best accomplished by having the subject voluntarily maintain full inspiration usingonly the minimal necessary effort. The breath-hold time must be 10±2 s, a target easily achieved in thevast majority of subjects [77].

As with inspiration, the DLCO calculation assumes instantaneous lung emptying [27, 68–72]. Althoughvarious sample timing techniques address the fact that emptying is not instantaneous, it is still reasonableto expect that the expiratory manoeuvre must be smooth, unforced and without hesitation or interruption.



e L

Time s


s c






% (




Time s






gas leak

Stepwise inhalation

or exhalation


too slow

Breath-hold leak





Exhaled volume larger

than inhaled volume

FIGURE 3 Potential problems with the breathing manoeuvre for single-breath diffusing capacity of the lungfor carbon monoxide that can lead to measurement errors. Reproduced from [4].

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For classical systems, the exhalation time for washout and discrete sample collection should not exceed 4 s.In subjects who require a longer expiratory time to provide an appropriate alveolar gas sample, theexpiratory time must be noted in the test report. For RGA systems, exhalation should continue to RV, witha maximum exhalation time of 12 s, which provides improved measurement of VA as noted in the dataanalysis for RGA systems section below. The results of common errors that can occur during theinspiration, breath-hold and expiration manoeuvres are illustrated in figure 3.

Washout and sample collection manoeuvresDLCO calculations (see the calculations section below) are performed by analysis of discrete alveolar gassamples containing carbon monoxide and tracer gas. During expiration, a volume of gas must be expiredto clear the total anatomical and equipment dead-space volume (VD) and then discarded before thealveolar sample is collected (figure 1). Collecting an alveolar gas sample before the point of dead-spacewashout will underestimate DLCO, while delaying sample collection beyond the point of dead-spacewashout will overestimate DLCO [68, 72].

Washout and sample collection in classical systemsThe washout volume must be 0.75–1.0 L (BTPS). If the patient’s VC is <2.00 L, the washout volume maybe reduced to 0.50 L. The discrete-sample gas volume (VS) is the volume of gas collected following thebreath-hold and used to analyse alveolar carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentrations. VS collectiontime will affect the measurement of breath-hold time (see below). For discrete sample systems that requirelarger sample volumes, a VS of 0.5–1 L should be collected for analysis. In patients with a VC <1 L, a VS

<0.5 L may be used if it can be confirmed that the dead-space has been cleared.

Washout and sample collection in RGA systemsThe time point for dead-space washout can be determined from the expired tracer gas concentration datausing an objective algorithm. The beginning of the alveolar plateau can be located by determining the









% (




Time s

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17









% (




Volume L

10 1 2 3 4 5 6









% (




Time s

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17









% (




Volume L

0 1 2 3 4 5 6

Tracer gas



Tracer gas



Tracer gas



Tracer gas



FIGURE 4 Comparison of gas concentration plotted as a function of time (a and b) or volume (c and d) forcarbon monoxide and tracer gas. The shaded bar shows the collection of a 500-mL sample of exhaled gas. Theupper panels (a and c) show sample collection as selected by computer algorithm (based on gas concentrationand lung volume). The lower panels (b and d) show sample collection after manual adjustment by an operatorusing the concentration versus time plot. Operators tend to be more conservative and may over-shift thesample. When gas concentration is plotted against time, the shift does not appear to be significant; however,when gas concentration is plotted against volume, the degree of shift becomes more apparent.

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breakpoint of each phase of the washout on a plot of concentration versus volume and adding aproportion of the dead-space volume measured by the FOWLER technique [78] to the phase II to IIIbreakpoint [79]. Such an approach can be automated; however, for visual verification of the point ofdead-space washout, the tracer gas concentration must be displayed as a function of volume, sinceverifying the point of dead-space washout using the concentration versus time curve can be deceptive dueto the relatively high flow at the beginning of exhalation. This is illustrated in figure 4. If the samplecollection point is changed by the operator, it must be recorded in the database and on the report.

With RGA systems, the concentrations of carbon monoxide and tracer gas in a virtual alveolar gas sampleare calculated for use in measuring DLCO. The gas concentrations in a virtual sample, that would havebeen observed in a sample of a given volume had it been collected at a given point during exhalation, arecalculated from the flow and gas concentration data. A virtual 200-mL sample analysed by the method ofJONES and MEADE [72] has been found to be robust [68]. However, these systems are capable of simulatingmuch smaller gas samples and JONES and MEADE [72] used 85-mL gas samples in the development of theirmethod. Smaller virtual samples will be more affected by noise in the expired carbon monoxideconcentration signal. Virtual alveolar gas sample volumes of 85 mL to 500 mL may be used.

Inspired gas compositionThe test gas used to calculate DLCO should contain very close to 0.3% carbon monoxide, 21% oxygen, atracer gas and a balance of nitrogen. The tracer gas must be relatively insoluble and relatively chemicallyand biologically inert. Since the tracer gas is used to determine the initial alveolar carbon monoxideconcentration, as well as the VA from which carbon monoxide uptake is occurring, its gaseous diffusivityshould be similar to carbon monoxide and it should not interfere with the measurement of carbonmonoxide concentration. The tracer gas should also not ordinarily be present in alveolar gas or else bepresent at a known, fixed concentration (e.g. argon).

Commonly used tracer gases include helium and methane. Helium meets most of the previous criteria;however, its gaseous diffusivity is considerably higher than that of carbon monoxide. Methane iscommonly used for RGA systems; its gaseous diffusivity is closer to carbon monoxide but it has a slightlyhigher liquid solubility than helium. A recent study has found no clinical difference in DLCO using eitherhelium or methane in normal subjects or patients with COPD [80].

As noted above, the inspired carbon monoxide concentration should be close to 0.3%; however, as ratiosare more important than absolute values, exact concentrations are not critical. The assumption incalculating carbon monoxide uptake is that capillary blood does not contain carbon monoxide. Thus,corrections are needed in patients who have significant COHb (see the section on adjustment for COHbconcentration and carbon monoxide back-pressure below). There are two considerations influencing therationale for recommending an inspiratory oxygen fraction (FIO2) of 21% in the test gas for routine DLCO

testing. First, the majority of studies developing reference values for DLCO, which are based on the 2005standards [4], use an FIO2 of 21% (see the section on reference values below). Secondly, the PAO2 followinga maximal inhalation will depend on the dead-space volume and the ratio of VI to VA for any given valueof FIO2 in the test gas. Hence, if reducing FIO2 in the test gas is intended to simulate tidal breathingconditions (i.e. a PAO2 of 100 mmHg or 13 kPa), it may not do so in all subjects.

Although not performed routinely, the measurement of DLCO at several different levels of PAO2 allows thetwo components of DLCO (DM and θVC) to be distinguished. This is accomplished by using theRoughton–Forster relationship noted previously (equation 3) and varying θ by altering PAO2. Subsequently,1/DLCO is plotted against 1/θ at the different PAO2 levels. The slope of this relationship is 1/VC and theintercept is 1/DM. While there are differences in the proposed value of θ, it is beyond the scope of thisreport to make recommendations for the value of θ to be used.

Manoeuvre intervalsManoeuvre intervals in classical systemsThe 2005 ERS/ATS recommendations state that at least 4 min must be allowed between manoeuvres toallow for adequate elimination of test gas from the lungs. The subject should remain seated during thisinterval. In patients with airflow obstruction, a longer period (e.g. 10 min) should be considered. Severaldeep inspirations during this period may help to clear test gases more effectively.

Manoeuvre intervals in RGA systemsExhaled gas can be monitored as soon as the subject begins breathing through the mouthpiece prior to theinhalation of test gas. If a previous manoeuvre was conducted, the information collected on end-expiratorytracer gas levels will indicate whether or not washout is complete, which may occur in less than 4 min insome subjects. For complete washout, the tracer gas level at end-exhalation must be ⩽2% of the tracer gas

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concentration in the test gas. Occasionally, if a subject has not reached this level of washout after 5 min,the operator may have the option of continuing with the next manoeuvre. However, in either event, theend-expiratory tracer gas concentration must be reported and used to adjust the tracer gas concentrationdata used in the determination of VA at the beginning of breath-holding.

The carbon monoxide concentration measured in exhaled gas prior to inhaling test gas can be used forthree important purposes [53]: 1) to adjust DLCO calculations for the back-pressure of carbon monoxide,both the ambient level and the increase that occurs with multiple DLCO manoeuvres; 2) to estimate theCOHb concentration and adjust the DLCO calculation accordingly; and 3) to compensate for any residualeffects of water vapour and carbon dioxide on the carbon monoxide analysers.

Miscellaneous factorsThere may be a diurnal variation in DLCO, since one study has found that DLCO falls 1.2–2.2% per hourthroughout the day [81]. The reason for this change is not clear and is not explained by carbon monoxideback-pressure or changes in VA, VI, or breath-hold time. One explanation is a combination of changes incarbon monoxide back-pressure and diurnal variation in Hb concentration [82]. A 13% change in DLCO

during the menstrual cycle has been reported [83]. The highest value is observed just before the menses andthe lowest is observed on the third day of menses; however, it is not clear if this is simply a Hb effect orwhether it reflects other physiological processes (e.g. hormonal changes on pulmonary vascular tone). Ingestionof ethanol has been reported to decrease DLCO [84, 85]. The mechanisms involved are not clear, although it isknown that some fuel-cell carbon monoxide analysers are sensitive to exhaled ethanol and ketones.

Pulmonary function test sequenceDLCO manoeuvres are frequently conducted immediately following the administration of 400 μg ofsalbutamol in the interval between pre- and post-bronchodilator spirometry testing [60]. While an olderstudy in obstructive lung disease subjects found that DLCO may increase by up to 6% after administrationof a bronchodilator [86], a newer study has found that the administration of 400 μg of salbutamol has nosignificant effect on DLCO in normal control subjects or in patients with either reversible on non-reversibleairflow obstruction [87]. A further study has found no significant salbutamol effect on DLCO in COPDpatients at doses of less than 1000 μg [88]. Therefore, there is no recommendation against use of abronchodilator prior to DLCO tests.

Spirometry is a form of exercise [59], which could conceivably impact on DLCO values; however, nostudies were found which support a recommendation for a rest interval following spirometry. If the orderof testing includes measuring absolute lung volumes using nitrogen washout, during which 100% oxygenis inspired [89] prior to DLCO manoeuvres, ample time is required for alveolar oxygen levels to return tonormal. For nitrogen to wash back in to normal levels, allow a rest interval equal to twice the timerequired for the nitrogen washout test to be completed [90]. It is recommended that DLCO measurementsbe made before any multi-breath nitrogen washout tests.

CalculationsCalculating diffusing capacityConverting equation 2 to calculus notation and using PACO=FACO·(PB−PH2O), where FACO is the alveolarcarbon monoxide fraction in the dry gas, PB is the barometric pressure and PH2O is the water vapourpressure, gives equation 4 as shown below.

d(VA � FACO)dt

¼ DLCO � FACO � (PB � PH2O) (4)

Assuming a constant volume and that the pulmonary capillary carbon monoxide tension is near zero,solving for DLCO gives equation 5, where FACO,0 and FACO,t are the fractional concentrations of carbonmonoxide in the alveolar volume at time 0 and time t, respectively. The rate of gas uptake is expressed inmL(STPD)·min−1 and the transfer gradient (the difference between the alveolar and pulmonary capillarypressures) in mmHg. Therefore, DLCO has traditional units of mL(STPD)·min−1·mmHg−1 and SI units ofmmol(STPD)·min−1·kPa−1.

DLCO ¼ VAt � (PB � PH2O)

� ln FACO,0


� �(5)

The single-breath DLCO technique assumes that both carbon monoxide and the tracer gas are dilutedequally on inspiration. Thus, the initial alveolar concentration of carbon monoxide at the theoretical start

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of breath-holding (FACO,0) can be calculated by knowing the inspired tracer gas fraction (FITr) and thealveolar tracer gas fraction (FATr). In this case, if FICO is the carbon monoxide fraction in the inspired testgas, we can generate equation 6.



Tracer gas dilution is also used to determine the effective VA. If we solve for DLCO we can generateequation 7, where VA is reported in L (BTPS) and tBH, the breath-hold time, is reported in seconds.

DLCO ¼ VAtBH � (PB � PH2O)



� �(7)

If we convert VA to STPD conditions we obtain equation 8 for traditional units of DLCO

(VA mL(STPD)·min−1·mmHg−1). The factor of 60000 arises from the change to the traditional units (60 sto 1 min and 1 L to 1000 mL).


tBH � (PB � 47)� ln FICO


� �� 60 000 (8)

If we then convert to SI units we obtain equation 9 (units of TLCO: mmol·min−1·kPa−1), where the factorof 22.4 arises from the conversion of mL(STPD) to mmol.


tBH � (PB � 6:28)� ln FICO


� �� 60 000=22:4 (9)

Calculating breath-hold timeThe breath-hold time, or time of transfer during which carbon monoxide changes from its initial to itsfinal concentration (tBH), is part of the denominator in the DLCO equation (equation 7). As notedpreviously, the single-breath measurement of carbon monoxide uptake assumes an instantaneous lungfilling and emptying process. However, both inspiration and expiration require up to several seconds, andthese periods of changing gas volume in the lung must be accounted for in the calculations. For purposesof standardisation, the method of JONES and MEADE (figure 5) [72] is recommended, since it has thetheoretical appeal of empirically accounting for the effects of inspiratory and expiratory time. This methodhas also been shown to adequately address inspiratory flows as low as 1 L·s−1, breath-hold times as shortas 5 s and expiratory flows as low as 0.5 L·s−1 in normal subjects [68] when using an RGA system that








e L

Time s

20 4 6 8 10 12 14 16

90% VI



Inhalation Breath-holding Exhalation

Washout volume

Sample volume




FIGURE 5 Schematic illustration of measuring breath-hold time for the single-breath diffusing capacity of thelung for carbon monoxide. The JONES and MEADE [72] breath-hold time includes 0.7 of inspiratory time and halfof sample time. VI: inspired volume; tI: time of inspiration (defined from the back-extrapolated time 0 to thetime that 90% of the VI has been inhaled); tBH: breath-hold time; TLC: total lung capacity; RV: residual volume.Reproduced from [4].

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measures the dead-space and calculates VA using the tracer gas concentration data from the entiremanoeuvre. With the approach taken by JONES and MEADE [72], breath-hold time equals the time startingfrom 0.3 of the inspiratory time (tI) to the middle of the sample collection time. As in spirometry, theback-extrapolation technique must be used to establish time zero [2, 59]. The time when 90% of the VI

has been inspired is a reasonable end-point for defining inspiratory time (figure 5).

Calculating the alveolar volumeAlveolar volume in classical systemsVA represents an estimate of lung gas volume into which carbon monoxide is distributed and thentransferred across the alveolar capillary membrane [1, 6] and is thus critical in the measurement of DLCO.Classical DLCO equipment collects an actual sample of exhaled gas for analysis and determination of thecarbon monoxide and tracer gas concentrations. Since there is only one measurement, the alveolar volumeis calculated from the same sample that is used for analysis of carbon monoxide uptake [2]. As notedelsewhere, JONES and MEADE [72] have shown that the sample has to be small (85 mL) to reduce errors inDLCO determination. The calculation of VA requires an assumption that the alveolar gas is completelymixed at the maximal lung volume and that a small sample of exhaled gas will presumably berepresentative of the entire lung. In normal subjects this assumption is reasonable and has little effect onthe measurement of VA. However, in patients whose lung disease results in a heterogeneous distribution ofventilation, the size and timing of the sample have a major effect on the measurement of VA. For classicalsystems, VA is determined from values for VI, FITr and FATr (measured in the discrete-sample gas volume,VS). Since the amount of tracer gas in the lung (alveolar plus dead-space) equals the amount of inspiredtracer gas and given that the dead-space tracer gas fraction is the same as the inspired fraction, we cangenerate equations 10 and 11.

VI � FITr ¼ VA � FATr þ VD � FITr (10)

VA ¼ (VI�VD) � FITr=FATr (11)

VA is reported under BTPS conditions and then converted to STPD conditions to calculate DLCO, as inequations 8 and 9. The inspired volume (VI) is the measured volume of inhaled dry gas and is thusconsidered to be under ambient temperature (T ), ambient pressure (PB), dry (ATPD) conditions. Theconversion to body temperature, ambient pressure, saturated with water vapour (BTPS) and standardtemperature, pressure, dry (STPD) conditions may require conversion factors to compensate for thediluting or concentrating effects of adding or removing water vapour or carbon dioxide at the gassampling site. Several examples of VA calculations using such conversion factors are given below.

Where water vapour is removed from the sampled gas and carbon dioxide does not interfere with theanalysers we can use equations 12 and 13 as follows, where VABTPS is the alveolar volume under BTPSconditions and VIATPD is the inspired volume under ATPD conditions.

VABTPS ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� PB(PB � 47)

� 310(273þ T)


VASTPD ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� PB760

� 273(273þ T)


Where water vapour and carbon dioxide are removed from the sampled gas we can use equations 14 and15 as follows, where FACO2 is the fraction of carbon dioxide in the alveolar sample. If no measurement ofFACO2 is available then a value of 0.05 may be assumed.

VABTPS ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr � (1� FACO2 )

� PB(PB � 47)

� 310(273þ T)


VASTPD ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr � (1� FACO2)

� PB760

� 273(273þ T)


Where water vapour in the sampled gas is equilibrated to room air, carbon dioxide does not interfere withthe analysers and tank values (i.e. the dry gas concentration) are used for FITr, we can use equations 16

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and 17 as shown below. If FITr is read by the analysers, the corrections are the same as in equations 12and 13 above.

VABTPS ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� (PB � PH2O)

(PB � 47)� 310(273þ T)


VASTPD ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� (PB � PH2O)

760� 273(273þ T)


If neither water vapour nor carbon dioxide are removed from the sampled gas, no interference is observedfor the analysers and the sample tubing is heated to prevent condensation, we can use equations 18 and 19as shown below:

VABTPS ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� 310(273þ T)


VASTPD ¼ (VIATPD � VDequip � VDanat) � FITrFATr� (PB � 47)

760� 273(273þ T)


In all four cases, temperature is measured in degrees Celsius and gas pressures are measured in mmHg. Itis essential that VD is considered in the calculation of VA. VD occurs in two areas: equipment dead-space,VDequip (i.e. the volume of the mouthpiece, filters and connections within the breathing circuit) andanatomic dead-space, VDanat (i.e. the volume in the conducting airways that does not participate in gasexchange). VDequip must be specified by the equipment manufacturer but may vary as the user alters thesystem (e.g. by adding a filter or using a different filter). A further small correction to VD can be madewhere VDequip is assumed to be under ATPD conditions, since it is filled with room temperature, dry testgas at the end of inspiration, whereas VDanat should be assumed to be under BTPS conditions. There arevarious methods to estimate VDanat. One example uses a fixed value of 150 mL [4, 5], although this doesnot work well for small adults or children. Another uses a value of 2.2 mL·kg−1 of body weight [50],although this does not work well for very obese subjects. In the studies which derive the commonly usedreference equations, the latter is the most commonly used technique. However, some investigators haveignored VDanat [91–93] and one uses a value derived from age+2.2 mL·kg−1 of body weight [94]. If bodymass index (BMI) is <30 kg·m−2, the recommendation is to use an estimate for VDanat of 2.2 mL·kg−1

body weight. In more obese subjects, or if the weight of the subject is unknown, VDanat (in mL) can beestimated using equation 20 where height (h) is measured in cm.

VDanat ¼ h2=189:4 (20)

With classical discrete-sample systems, which collect the alveolar sample in a collection bag or chamber, thesample-bag residual volume (sometimes called the sample-bag dead-space) dilutes the sample gas and altersthe measured concentrations of the expired gases. The size and direction of the error depends on VS, theresidual volume of the sample bag and its connectors (VSRV) and the gas content of this residual volume. VSRV

could contain test gas, room air, or expired gas from a subject after a DLCO manoeuvre. When VSRV containsroom air, its effect is to reduce the measured concentrations of the expired gases and equation 21 can be usedto adjust for this. Estimates of the potential change in DLCO, in existing systems when no adjustment is madefor sample-bag dead-space, range from 0.3–8% depending on the sample-bag size and VSRV [95].

FATr[adjusted] ¼ FATr[measured] � (VS=(VS � VSRV)) (21)

For classical systems, manufacturers must report instrument and sample-bag dead-space. Both of these mustbe flushed with room air or, if DM and VC are to be calculated, appropriate levels of oxygen before thesingle-breath manoeuvre such that they will not contain expiratory gas from a previous subject. VSRV must be<2% of VS or 10 mL, whichever is larger. Importantly, when RGAs are used to measure the exhaled sample,there is no residual bag volume to consider (VA is calculated using a mass balance of all inhaled and exhaledgas; equations 22–26 in the next section).

For normal subjects, the classical single-breath determination of alveolar volume (VAsb) described aboveclosely matches TLC determined by plethysmography [22, 74]. However, poor gas mixing in patients with

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maldistribution of inspired volume (e.g. patients with obstructed airways) can markedly alter tracer gasdilution leading to values for VAsb that are markedly less than the value of VA determined from the actualtotal thoracic gas volume. Observed carbon monoxide uptake is also affected by poor gas mixing underthese conditions and will primarily reflect the carbon monoxide transfer properties of the regions intowhich the test gas is distributed. It has been suggested that a separately determined VA value from a moreaccurate method (e.g. multiple-breath technique (VAmb) or plethysmography (VAplethys)) could besubstituted for VAsb under these conditions to correct for the effects of maldistribution. However, theDLCO calculation (equation 7) is based on the volume of gas into which the tracer gas (and carbonmonoxide) distributes, and not the total thoracic gas volume. Moreover, substituting a larger, separatelydetermined VAmb or VAplethys value assumes that DM and VC properties in the unmeasured lung regionsare similar to those in the measured lung regions, an assumption that is difficult to justify. Additionally, ifVAsb is replaced with a different value, the applicability of the DLCO reference equations is compromised.

Due to these considerations, a separately measured VAmb or VAplethys should not be substituted for VAsb.Instead, when the value of VAsb is markedly less than that determined separately for VAmb or VAplethys, thismust be reported and the ratio of VAsb to VAmb or VAplethys may optionally be included. For thesubsequent interpretation of DLCO, it should then be noted that the maldistribution of inspired gasprobably contributes to any observed reduction in measured values.

Alveolar volume in RGA systemsAs mentioned in the previous section, when an RGA system is used the dead-space volume is measuredrather than estimated. The total dead-space, VD, can be measured from the tracer gas washout curve using theFOWLER [78] method (figure 6). A linear regression line estimating the slope of phase III of the tracer gaswashout concentration as a function of volume should be calculated using the last half of the expiratorytracing by volume. The Fowler dead-space is the point where the area between the phase III slope and the



Fowler dead-space





r g

as c






% (




Volume L

0 1 2 3 4 5 6



Fowler dead-space





r g

as c






% (




Volume L

0 1 2 3

FIGURE 6 Graphical representation of the calculation of the Fowler dead-space volume in a normal, healthysubject (a) and a subject with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (b). The single-breath tracer gaswashout is plotted against exhaled lung volume from total lung capacity. The volume at which the shaded areaabove the tracer gas washout curve equals the shaded area below the curve is the FOWLER dead-space [78]which is reported under body temperature, ambient pressure, saturated with water vapour (BTPS) conditions.

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tracer gas washout curve equals the area between the peak tracer gas concentration and the tracer gas washoutcurve. The anatomic dead-space, VDanat, is equal to the Fowler dead-space minus the equipment dead-space,VDequip, which includes the filter and/or mouthpiece and which must be supplied by the manufacturer.

The development of RGA systems now allows the analysis of all gas exhaled and provides the opportunityto enhance the accuracy of VA determinations. Given that the tracer gas can now be monitored throughoutexhalation, there is no need to constrain the measurement of VA to the discrete sample computationallyconstructed to determine carbon monoxide uptake. Indeed, using all of the available gas concentrationdata has been shown to provide a better estimate of VA [71, 96] than constraining the measurement to asmaller sample of exhaled gas (as was required by the equipment available in 1957 when the clinicalsingle-breath method was developed [2]).

This technique uses a mass balance approach to determine VA in which the volume of tracer gas inhaledand the volume subsequently exhaled are measured and the latter subtracted from the former to determinethe volume of tracer gas remaining in the lung at end-exhalation [71, 96]. The volume of tracer gas left inthe lung is then divided by the end-expiratory tracer gas concentration to give the absolute end-expiratorylung volume Vee. The TLC is then calculated by adding the expired volume (VE) to Vee and subtractingVDequip. If VE is the volume expired from the maximum volume during breath-holding (to the end of themanoeuvre) then the single-breath total lung capacity (TLCsb) can be defined as TLCsb=VE+Vee−VDequip

and VA=TLCsb−VDanat. Residual tracer gas in the lung from a previous manoeuvre can be measured priorto the start of the current manoeuvre and included in the mass balance equation.

In more detail, VA is calculated using a mass balance equation which states that the tracer gas left in thelung at end exhalation is equal to all of the tracer gas inhaled minus the tracer gas exhaled. The sum ofthe inhaled and exhaled tracer gas volumes is the integral, with respect to time, of flow×tracer gasconcentration where flow is positive for inhalation and negative for exhalation. In this case, Vee (includingVDequip and VDanat) is thus described by equation 22 where t0 is the time at the start of test gas inhalation,tf is the time at the end of exhalation, Tr(t) is the tracer gas concentration at any time t (adjusted to BTPSconditions), Tree is the mean tracer gas concentration at end-exhalation and flow(t) is the flow at any timet (under BTPS conditions).

Vee ¼ 1Tree


Tr(t) � flow(t) dt (22)

Depending upon the signal to noise ratio, the average value of Tr over the last 250 mL can be used forTree. Furthermore, when flow(t) is positive during inhalation of dry test gas, it is adjusted by 310/T·PB/(PB−47) where T is the ambient temperature. All measurements of tracer gas are assumed to be made withthe water vapour pressure in the sample line equilibrated to the water vapour pressure in room air.

The absolute lung volume at any time t, V(t), during the manoeuvre can then be described by equations 23and 24. The integral of flow(t)dt from time t0 to time tf is the net change in total volume over the entiremanoeuvre and will be zero if the inhaled volume, VI, equals the exhaled volume, VE. The integral offlow(t)dt from time t0 to time t is the net volume change at any time t. Hence, at the end of the singlebreath manoeuvre, V(tf ) is simply equal to Vee-VDequip.

V(t) ¼ Vee þðtt0

flow(t) dt �ðtft0

flow(t) dt � VDequip (23)

V(t) ¼ Vee �ðtftflow(t) dt � VDequip (24)

If the tracer gas has not been completely washed out from a previous DLCO manoeuvre, then the residualalveolar tracer gas concentration (TrR) measured just prior to the inhalation of test gas must be consideredin the mass-balance equation and Vee is duly described by equation 25.

Vee ¼ 1(Tree � TrR)


(Tr(t)� TrR) � flow(t) dt (25)

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The value of VA to be reported in BTPS conditions is described by equation 26. This value is converted toSTPD conditions for use in equation 8 or 9.

VA ¼ VE þ Vee � VDanat � VDequip (26)

This method has been compared to plethysmography in normal subjects and in patients with lung diseasewith various breath-hold times [71, 96]. For normal subjects, there is little difference in DLCO when usingeither method to measure VA; however, VA measured by the RGA method is significantly higher than VAmeasured by the classical method in subjects with COPD or uncontrolled asthma. The resulting DLCO

measurements in COPD cases are some 8 to 15% higher. Since reference values for DLCO are developed usingnormal subjects, existing reference values continue to be applicable using VA measured by the RGA method.For subjects with COPD the effect of using the RGA VA value will, in isolation, be to calculate an increasedDLCO value. However, the VA measured from a discrete sample will vary with the sample volume and sampletiming [72] such that using the RGAVA value should improve reproducibility of DLCO in these subjects.

Another significant advantage of calculating absolute lung volume at end-exhalation instead of at maximalinhalation is that the impact of errors due to the assumption of complete gas mixing in the lung isreduced. For example, in a patient with a TLC of 7 L and a RV of 2 L, a 10% error in TLC (700 mL)translates into a 10% error in DLCO. However, a 10% error in RV would be 200 mL and when VC is addedto RV the volume error at TLC is only 2.9% which translates into only a 2.9% error in DLCO.

During the transition from classical systems to RGA systems, some laboratories may wish to report DLCO

values using the 2005 ATS/ERS method in combination with those obtained using RGA VA forcomparative purposes. RGA VA values may alter DLCO in some older normal subjects, who have moreheterogeneous distribution of ventilation due to the normal ageing process, and therefore might yieldslightly higher DLCO values compared to current classically derived reference values. As with any set ofreference values, which must be validated in each laboratory, DLCO values using VA must be validatedusing a group of normal, healthy subjects. The Global Lung Function Initiative is in the process ofdeveloping all-age predicted values using datasets submitted from 12 countries (www.lungfunction.org).

Inspired gas conditionsIn most cases, the test gas inspired from a bag or a compressed gas cylinder with a demand valve is a drygas and, as such, is considered to be under ATPD conditions. The inspired volume needs to be convertedinto BTPS conditions for use in equations 10 and 11. It is recommended that the VI (BTPS) be reportedand that manufacturers should specify and document inspired gas conditions for each instrument. Sincegas cooling can occur due to decompression through the delivery valve, manufacturers are required tomeasure the test gas temperature at the pneumotachometer in a typical system in their testing laboratoryand provide appropriate compensation for gas cooling if necessary.

Carbon dioxide, water vapour and temperature adjustment for alveolar volume calculationsExhaled gas contains carbon dioxide and water vapour which were not present in the test gas mixture. Asnoted previously, some systems remove one or both of these if they interfere with analyser function,raising both carbon monoxide and tracer gas concentrations. Under these circ*mstances, adjustments arerequired for the increase in FATr used to calculate VA. However, no adjustment for the increase in alveolarinspired carbon monoxide and tracer gas fractions at time t (FACO,t and FATr,t) is necessary in calculatingthe rate of carbon monoxide uptake, since the concentration factor appears in both the numerator and thedenominator of the expression (FATr,t/FACO,t) and the effect therefore cancels itself out. Exhaled gas isinitially at body temperature and some systems allow this to cool, such that the gas volume contracts,whereas others will provide heat to maintain the temperature. As such, adjustments to BTPS conditionsmay be required depending upon the system design. All of these adjustments must be documented by themanufacturer for their particular system. The conversion factors used to modify calculations in DLCO

manoeuvres are shown in equations 8, 9 and 12–19.

RGA signal alignmentTo properly analyse continuous gas samples, the gas concentration signals from the analysers must beproperly aligned with the flow signal from the pneumotachometer (figure 2). The first step is to shift theconcentration signal ahead in time to compensate for the lag time (the time required for the gas to travelfrom the aspiration port to the analyser chamber). The lag time is a function of the length and diameter ofthe tubing and the analyser aspiration rate. The length of the tubing should be minimised to preventmixing of the aspirated sample within the sampling tube, which can blunt the response time through aprocess of Taylor dispersion. The amount of mixing will also depend on the configuration of the sampling

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circuit, including any valves and junctions, which can create turbulence. It should also be noted that lagtime can vary with gas viscosity and, when helium is used as the tracer gas, this may require dynamiccompensation during exhalation.

An additional shift of each gas concentration signal relative to the flow signal is also required to compensatefor the response time of the analyser. This can be accomplished using an optimal shift equal to the naturallogarithm of twice the time constant of the analyser response [97]. Alternatively, alignment may be achievedby other signal processing strategies such as cross-correlation techniques (convolution of signals).

For a more accurate DLCO calculation, a third shift equal to the dead-space transit time may be used totranslate the gas concentrations measured at the mouth to the gas concentrations in the alveolar space.During inhalation, the gas sampled at the aspiration port will not reach the gas-exchanging alveolar spaceuntil at least one dead-space transit time later and, similarly, the gas sampled at the aspiration port duringexhalation is gas that was in the alveolar space one dead-space transit time previously. If a system uses thisfurther correction the effective breath-hold time in the alveolar space will be reduced (typically by 0.05–0.15 s) and DLCO will be increased (typically by 0.5–1.5%).

Interpolation between data points may be required to achieve optimal shifting of the gas concentrationdata, particularly if lower digitisation rates are used. To reduce errors introduced by interpolation, asample rate of 1000 Hz per channel is recommended.

Transfer coefficient of the lung for carbon monoxideThe logarithmic change in carbon monoxide concentration during the breath-hold phase of thesingle-breath manoeuver, divided by tBH and the PB of the dry gas is termed KCO. This is equivalent to theleft hand side of equation 5 without the VA term and, conceptually, DLCO is thus equivalent to VA·KCO.The specific calculations for KCO are shown below as equations 27 and 28; however, if values are requiredin SI units, it is necessary to convert 1000 mL(STPD) to mmol as shown in equations 29 and 30.



� �� 1tBH=60 � (PB � PH2O)

� 1000mL1 L

� 273310

� PB � PH2O




� �� 1tBH

� 69:52 (28)



� �� 1tBH=60 � (PB � PH2O)

� 1000mL1 L

� 273310

� PB � PH2O

101:3� 1mmol22:4mL




� �� 1tBH

� 23:29 (30)

It should be noted that the calculation of KCO is completely independent of the gas flow, lung volume andbarometric pressure measured during the manoeuvre. Although the units of the logarithmic change incarbon monoxide concentration per unit time and per unit pressure are min−1·mmHg−1 (or min−1·kPa−1),KCO is expressed in units of mL(STPD)·min−1·mmHg−1·L(BTPS) −1 or mmol·min−1·kPa−1·L(BTPS)−1 onlybecause the basic measurement of the logarithmic change in gas concentration over time is multiplied by1000 mL(STPD) and then divided by 1 L(BTPS) which changes the magnitude of the value of KCO by1000 times the BTPS to STPD factor [98].

As VA is not a component of KCO, some users prefer to use KCO as it eliminates the uncertainty inmeasurement of VA from the assessment of carbon monoxide uptake. This uncertainty arises from theassumption that FATr, as measured from the exhaled gas sample, is representative of the entire lung.However, this same assumption is used to estimate the alveolar carbon monoxide concentration at thestart of breath-holding and KCO measurement is thus subject to the same uncertainty [99].

Mathematically, KCO can be calculated as DLCO/VABTPS. However, KCO should not be reported using theterm DLCO/VA, as it may be inferred from this term that DLCO can be corrected or normalised for VA. Infact, the relationship between lung volume and carbon monoxide uptake is complex and studies evaluatingthe effects of reduced VI (and thus VA) show the relationship to be alinear and certainly less than 1:1

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(i.e. the fall in DLCO is far less than the fall in lung volume) [20, 21, 98, 100, 101]. This likely reflects thefact that alveolar folding–unfolding and capillary volume changes resulting from lung volume changes donot translate into concomitant and equal changes in DLCO. Thus, while the KCO calculation might addinsight into carbon monoxide uptake properties of the lung [98], it cannot be used as a simple techniqueto normalise DLCO for volume.

Optional calculationsSeparate equations for inhalation, breath-hold and exhalationWhen KROGH [1] developed the measurement of the “diffusion constant” in 1915, she had to design amanoeuvre that would be compatible with an analytical solution of the equation for gas transfer. Sheachieved this by simulating a pure breath-hold manoeuvre and the measurement of DLCO today continuesto be constrained by having the patient perform a rapid inhalation, 10 s of breath-holding and a rapidexhalation. Deviations from a pure breath-hold manoeuvre cause errors in DLCO because the Kroghequation is only valid for this case [68, 72].

The gas transfer equation can also be written for inhalation and exhalation, both of which becomeequivalent to the breath-holding equation at zero flow. Using data from the continuous monitoring of flowand the concentrations of carbon monoxide and tracer gas throughout the manoeuvre, an algorithm canbe used to calculate DLCO by numerical methods [53]. This method accounts analytically for the times ofinhalation and exhalation, gives values of DLCO that are not dependent on how rapidly the manoeuvre isperformed and returns a fixed value of DLCO over the entire manoeuvre that accounts for the observeduptake of carbon monoxide. All of the exhaled gas data can be used to provide a more representativemeasurement of DLCO for the whole lung rather than calculating DLCO from a small alveolar gas sample.

Using the “three-equation method” [53] in young, healthy subjects, the standardised manoeuvre gives thesame values for DLCO as the ATS standardised manoeuvre. However, when these same subjects performthe manoeuvre with slower flows and/or shorter breath-hold times, similar to those seen in patients withairflow obstruction, the three-equation method gives unchanged DLCO values while the ATS standardisedmethod yields significantly higher DLCO values [68]. KROGH [1] designed her experiment for normalsubjects and not for patients with lung disease. The standardised manoeuvre penalises lung diseasepatients, who cannot perform it adequately; however, with RGA instrumentation it is no longer necessaryto use an arduous, demanding manoeuvre to measure DLCO.

Indices of heterogeneity of ventilation and gas transferAs noted above, the heterogeneity of ventilation affects DLCO measurement [102, 103]. Gas concentrationdata from RGA systems can be used to calculate indices of ventilation nonuniformity, such as the slope ofphase III of the alveolar plateau [90, 104]. However, such indices need to be normalised to account for thedifferences in lung volume and the differences in RV/TLC that occur from person to person [79]. Othermeasures of mixing efficiency may be calculated from the tracer gas data [53].

Disease processes can also affect the distribution of gas transfer in the lung. Using the three-equationmethod, the observed decay in carbon monoxide during exhalation can be compared to the carbonmonoxide decay that would be predicted for a hom*ogeneous lung in which diffusion occurs uniformly. Anindex of DLCO heterogeneity has been developed that is capable of distinguishing smokers with normallung function and normal DLCO from a control group of nonsmokers [105].

Evaluating the measurement of DLCOAcceptability, repeatability and quality controlAcceptable manoeuvres are defined in table 3. The volume–time graph should show a smooth, sharp risein volume, followed by a stable breath-hold and a smooth, sharp exhalation (figure 3). The gasconcentration graph should show a very sharp rise when test gas is introduced and remain stable untilexhalation followed by an initial rapid decline with a smooth transition to phase III. Variations from thispattern will indicate leaks. The VI of test gas must be at least 90% of the largest VC measured in the samepulmonary function testing session. At least 85% of test gas VI must be inhaled within <4 s. There must beno evidence of a Müller or Valsalva manoeuvre during the breath-hold period. Alveolar sample collectionmust be completed within 4 s. The calculated breath-hold time must be 10±2 s. For RGA systems, virtualsample collection should be initiated after the completion of dead-space washout. A manoeuvre with aVI/VC <90% but ⩾85% may be deemed acceptable if the VA is within 200 mL or 5% (whichever is greater)of the largest VA from other acceptable manoeuvres.

Repeatability describes intra-session variability on repeated testing when there is no change in testconditions [106, 107]. In a large university-based laboratory study, the coefficient of variation for repeatedmeasurement in normal subjects was 3.1% and this increased only slightly (from 4.0 to 4.4%) in patients

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with abnormal spirometry patterns [108]. Studies conducted prior to the publication of the 2005 standardsfound DLCO variability of up to 9% (reproducibility) in normal individuals in repeated measurement over aperiod of 1 year [109] and coefficients of variation ranged from 6.2% to 12% in selected UK regions [110].

Repeatability requirement: there must be at least two acceptable manoeuvres that are within2 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 (0.67 mmol·min−1·kPa−1) of each other. A study of 4797 test sessions found that 95.5%of cases met this criterion [67]. Since most intra-session variability is technical rather than physiological, themean of acceptable manoeuvres is reported. The average of at least two acceptable manoeuvres that meet therepeatability requirement must be reported (i.e. outliers excluded). While it is recommended that at least twoacceptable DLCO manoeuvres must be performed, research is needed to determine the actual number ofmanoeuvres required to provide a reasonable estimate of average DLCO for a given person. As noted elsewhere,five manoeuvres will result in an increase of ∼3.5% COHb from baseline [66, 82], which will decrease themeasured DLCO by ∼3–3.5%. Thus, conducting more than five manoeuvres is not a recommended strategy.

There are no quality control grading systems that have been validated using the new standards containedin this document. Until such validation is published, an interim grading system is provided in table 3 andfurther research is recommended to develop and validate a DLCO grading system.

A grade A manoeuvre meets all acceptability criteria. The average DLCO from two or more grade Amanoeuvres that are repeatable (i.e. are within 2 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 or 0.67 mmol·min−1·kPa−1 of eachother) should be reported. If, after repeat testing, the operator is unable to obtain two repeatable grade Amanoeuvres, then the following values are reported with a caution to the interpreter that the testingsession was suboptimal: 1) If two or more grade A manoeuvres that are not repeatable are obtained, thenthe average DLCO value from the acceptable manoeuvres is reported. 2) If only one grade A manoeuvre isobtained, then the DLCO value from that manoeuvre is reported. 3) If no acceptable manoeuvres areobtained, then the average DLCO value of the manoeuvres with grades B, C or D is reported. 4) If onlygrade F manoeuvres are obtained, then no DLCO value is reported.

TABLE 3 Acceptability, repeatability and quality control in DLCO testing

Criteria for acceptability

A VI ⩾90% of the largest VC in the same test session; alternatively a VI ⩾85% of the largest VC in thesame test session and VA within 200 mL or 5% (whichever is greater) of the largest VA from otheracceptable manoeuvres

85% of test gas VI inhaled in <4 sA stable calculated breath-hold for 10±2 s with no evidence of leaks or Valsalva/Müller manoeuvresduring this time

Sample collection completed within 4 s of the start of exhalation. For RGA systems, virtual samplecollection should be initiated after dead-space washout is complete

Criteria for repeatability

At least two acceptable DLCO measurements within 2 mL·min−1·mmHg−1 (0.67 mmol·min−1·kPa−1)of each other

Quality control grading#

Score V I/VC tBH Sample collection

A ⩾90%¶ 8–12 s ⩽4 sB ⩾85% 8–12 s ⩽4 sC ⩾80% 8–12 s ⩽5 sD ⩽80% <8 or >12 s ⩽5 sF ⩽80% <8 or >12 s >5 s

VI: inspired volume; VC: vital capacity; VA: alveolar volume; tBH: breath-hold time; DLCO: diffusing capacity ofthe lung for carbon monoxide. #: only grade A manoeuvres meet all acceptability criteria. The average DLCO

values from two or more grade A manoeuvres that meet the repeatability criterion should be reported. Ifonly one grade A manoeuvre is attained, the DLCO value from that manoeuvre should be reported. If nograde A manoeuvre is obtained, manoeuvres of grades B to D might still have clinical utility. The average ofsuch manoeuvres should be reported but these deviations from the acceptability criteria must be noted tocaution the interpreter of the test results. Manoeuvres of grade F are not useable. ¶: or VI/VC⩾85% and VAwithin 200 mL or 5% (whichever is greater) of the largest VA from another acceptable manoeuvre.

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Adjustments to the predicted value of DLCO prior to interpretationThe value of DLCO depends upon a number of physiological factors. Besides varying with age, sex, heightand possibly ethnicity, DLCO also changes with Hb, lung volume, COHb, PIO2 (inspired oxygen tension,e.g. altitude), exercise and body position. Although these effects may cause changes in DLCO in oppositedirections [111], all should be considered in interpreting the observed carbon monoxide uptake. It isrecommended that adjustments for these factors be made in the predicted rather than the measured DLCO

value. The predicted DLCO value is derived from measurements in normal subjects who are disease free,have normal Hb levels and minimal COHb, are sitting at rest, and breathing room air. If any of theseconditions are not met, then the predicted value should be adjusted accordingly.

Adjustment for haemoglobinSince carbon monoxide–Hb binding is such an important factor in carbon monoxide transfer, DLCO

changes can be substantial as a function of Hb concentration [111–115]. The empirical effect upon DLCO

with change in Hb closely matches what is expected from a theoretical approach using the relationship inequation 3, with θ assumed to be proportional to Hb, DM/θVC assumed to be 0.7 [113] and the “standard”Hb value assumed to be 14.6 g·dL−1 (9 mmol·L−1) in adult and adolescent males and 13.4 g·dL−1

(8.26 mmol·L−1) in adult females and children <15 years old. Using these relationships and expressing Hbin g·dL−1, the predicted DLCO in adolescents and adult males can be adjusted using equation 31, while thatin children <15 years of age and females is adjusted using equation 32. Results from a more recent studyin patients with a wide range of Hb abnormalities [115] show a slightly greater and more linearrelationship; however, corrected values are generally consistent with equations 31 and 32.

DLCO[predicted forHb] ¼ DLCO[predicted] � (1:7Hb=(10:22þHb)) (31)

DLCO[predicted forHb]¼ DLCO[predicted] � (1:7Hb=(9:38þHb)) (32)

The measurement of Hb in the American population [116] found deviation from these standard values,especial in males, children and seniors; differences were also found between Caucasian andAfrican-Americans. Furthermore, the survey found that Hb levels in the general population are changingover time. If a more appropriate reference Hb level (Hbref ) is available then the predicted DLCO is adjustedusing equation 33.

DLCO[predicted forHb] ¼ DLCO[predicted] � (1:7Hb=(0:7Hbref þHb)) (33)

Adjustments for alveolar oxygen tensionAs noted previously, PAO2 affects the measurement of DLCO and changes to PAO2 (such as supplementaloxygen breathing that gives higher PAO2 values) will have a correlating effect on DLCO values. The value ofDLCO will change by ∼0.35% for each 1mmHg change in PAO2 or ∼2.6% for each 1 kPa change in PAO2 [117,118]. Adjustments to the predicted DLCO in a subject on supplemental oxygen may be made using ameasured PAO2, where PAO2=FIO2·(PB−47) and assuming a normal PAO2 in room air at a sea level of 100mmHg (13.3 kPa). This is shown in equation 34 below or equation 35 if SI units are preferred.

DLCO[predicted for elevated PAO2 ] � DLCO[predicted]=(1:0þ 0:0035(PAO2 � 100)) (34)

TLCO[predicted adjusted forPAO2 ] � TLCO[predicted]=(1:0þ 0:026(PAO2 � 13:3)) (35)

Some pulmonary function systems include measurement of carbon dioxide. In these systems, theend-expiratory carbon dioxide concentration can be used to estimate the alveolar oxygen partial pressureusing the simplified alveolar gas equation. In patients who have higher carbon dioxide levels (higher PACO2)and consequently lower PAO2 values, the predicted DLCO can be corrected to compensate for the increase inDLCO that arises. For example, at a barometric pressure of 760 mmHg (101.3 kPa), if the PACO2 in a patientretaining carbon dioxide was 50 mmHg (6.67 kPa) then the PAO2 would be 86 mmHg (11.5 kPa) and thepredicted DLCO would be 4.8% higher than if the PACO2 were 40 mmHg (5.33 kPa). However, there are manyassumptions inherent in this approach and more research is needed to determine the validity of such anadjustment.

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Adjustment for carboxyhaemoglobin concentration and carbon monoxide back-pressureAs noted previously, COHb can affect the measured uptake of carbon monoxide in the following two ways[119–121]. First, by occupying Hb binding sites, carbon monoxide produces an “anaemia effect”. Secondly,carbon monoxide partial pressure in the blood will reduce the driving pressure for carbon monoxidetransport from alveolar gas to capillary blood. Exposure to ordinary environmental carbon monoxide andendogenous production of carbon monoxide as a byproduct of Hb catabolism commonly results inmeasured COHb levels of 1–2% [119]. However, cigarette smoke and other environmental sources canproduce measurable levels of carbon monoxide back-pressure and COHb that may need to be consideredin the measurement of carbon monoxide uptake [119].

The inhalation of carbon monoxide in the single-breath manoeuvre causes COHb to increase by 0.6–0.7%for each manoeuvre [66, 82]. The adjustment of the predicted DLCO value for carbon monoxide was foundto be −0.938% per 1.0% increase in COHb [122]. For RGA systems, carbon monoxide back-pressure canbe measured in expired gas prior to the inspiration of test gas in the DLCO manoeuvre [62] and can becompensated for analytically. For classical systems, carbon monoxide back-pressure can be estimated usingone of several available techniques [121, 123–125]. For example, carbon monoxide back-pressure can becalculated from COHb using equation 36, where COHb and O2Hb are the fractions of carbon monoxideand oxygen-bound haemoglobin, respectively.

FACO ¼ (COHb=O2Hb) � (FAO2)=210 (36)

DLCO can then be recalculated after subtracting the estimated carbon monoxide back-pressure from boththe initial and final alveolar carbon monoxide partial pressures (units must be consistent before makingthe subtraction). Unfortunately, this method will not adjust DLCO for the “anaemia effect” of COHb;however, several studies have evaluated both the empirical and theoretical effects of COHb on DLCO andincorporated both the back-pressure and the “anaemia effect” of COHb into the adjustment. In general, a1% increase in COHb reduces the measured DLCO by ∼0.8–1% from both effects [16, 17]. Using thisapproach, equation 37 empirically reduces predicted DLCO by 1% for each percentage point of COHb >2%.

DLCO[predicted for COHb] ¼ DLCO[predicted] � (102%� COHb%) (37)

A more recent study using an RGA system to measure alveolar carbon monoxide concentration, combinedwith venous measurement of COHb, found that the effect of carbon monoxide back-pressure and the“anaemia effect” are almost equal and the combined effect is a 2% decrease in DLCO for each 1% increasein COHb [62]. These findings were verified in a discrete sample system [66]. In these studies, where thecarbon monoxide back-pressure was measured and used in the calculation of DLCO, equation 38 was usedto further correct for the “anaemia effect” where FACOb is the alveolar carbon monoxide fraction in ppmmeasured at the end of exhalation to residual volume, just prior to the inhalation of test gas.

DLCO[corrected] ¼ DLCO � (1þ FACOb=560) (38)

As endogenous COHb (1–2%) was present in the healthy nonsmoking subjects from whom predictionequations were generated, an adjustment for COHb is only recommended for interpretative purposes whenCOHb levels are known to be elevated or levels above 2% are suspected. Methaemoglobin (MetHb) willnot bind carbon monoxide meaning there is, effectively, a reduced amount of haemoglobin available andleading to a similar “anaemia effect”. Since there is effectively less Hb to bind with carbon monoxideduring the DLCO manoeuvre, the measured DLCO is reduced. An adjustment for MetHb has been proposed[126] and is shown in equation 39.

Hb[adjusted]¼Hb � (100�MetHb=100) (39)

Adjustment of DLCO for barometric pressureFor factors such as Hb that are related to the individual subject, the recommended adjustment is made tothe predicted DLCO value. However, barometric pressure (PB) is an environmental factor that is

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independent of the individual and therefore the adjustment should be made to the measured DLCO valueto simulate standard pressure conditions. The variation in DLCO due to the typical range in high and lowpressure cells at a given altitude is approximately ±1.5%. PB decreases with altitude (such that PIO2

decreases) and DLCO increases by about 0.53% for each 100 m of increase in altitude. Moreover, theapplicability of using a reference value data set from a different location is improved if both the measuredDLCO and the predicted value of DLCO are adjusted to standard pressure (760 mmHg or 101.3 kPa). Theadjustment for PB [4, 117] assumes a PIO2 of 150 mmHg (20 kPa) at standard pressure and can becalculated using equations 40 (PB in mmHg) and 41 (PB in kPa).

DLCO[PB adjusted] � DLCO(0:505þ 0:00065 PB) (40)

DLCO[PB adjusted] � DLCO(0:505þ 0:00488 PB) (41)

For DLCO reference values that do not provide PB data, the altitude of the centre in which the referencevalues were obtained can be used to estimate PB [127] using equations 42 and 43 where a is the altitudeabove sea level in metres. It should be noted that the relationship between DLCO and PB has not beenconfirmed using an RGA system. Further research is needed to validate the use of equations 40 and 41.

PB[mmHg] ¼ 760 (1� 2:25577 � 10�5 � a)5:25588 (42)

PB[kPa] ¼ 101:325 (1� 2:25577 � 10�5 � a)5:25588 (43)

Reporting valuesThis document is intended to establish technical standards which, in terms of reporting, will require DLCO

systems to be able to report the variables listed in table 4. It is not intended to specify which variables endusers should include in the report forms used in their laboratories, nor is it intended to address theinterpretation of DLCO. Although work is ongoing towards establishing a standardised pulmonary functionlaboratory report form, there is no current standard. A DLCO system must be able to report the unadjustedmeasured DLCO, the DLCO adjusted for PB, the lower limit of normal and z-score, predicted, andpercentage of predicted DLCO, KCO, the lower limit of normal and z-score, predicted, and percentage ofpredicted KCO. Any adjustments (e.g. for Hb, COHb, PIO2 or lung volume) must also be reported alongwith the data used to make them. The average VA must be reported along with the predicted VA (thepredicted TLC minus the predicted VD) and percentage of predicted VA. If available, a separately measuredTLC and VA/TLC ratio may be reported, although this is optional. The average VI must also be noted. If aseparately measured VC is available, it must be reported to serve as a reference for the adequacy of VI. Inaddition, comments relevant to the quality of the measurements recorded must be included. A completelist of specifications for which variables and measurements that DLCO systems are able to report is givenin table 4. While the use of z-scores is favoured in the interpretation of pulmonary function results, giventhe continuing use of “percentage of predicted” values in many laboratories, the ability to report bothz-scores and percentage of predicted values is recommended.

Specifications for reports and output of resultsAlthough standardised reporting forms are being considered, manufacturers have diverse options forreporting of results. This is due, in a large measure, to the insistence of various pulmonary functionlaboratories on having a customised report that matches their historic format. A common option foraccommodating electronic medical records, is the provision of a pdf document; however, a universalformat for data output in the form of a csv or xml formatted data file has been proposed. This formatshould include the results and demographic/environmental data for each test in a format that will permitthe user to import data to and their own reporting formand export to their particular electronic record.The data file must include all data necessary to calculate the variables listed in table 4. For RGA systems,the data arrays for flow, carbon monoxide and tracer gas must be included and must be adjusted forauto-zero and calibration factors, with the optimal shift applied to the concentration data. Flow data mustbe converted to BTPS conditions and the data must include the equipment dead-space, the washoutvolume, the alveolar sample volume, the barometric pressure and the carbon monoxide and tracer gasconcentrations at end-exhalation prior to the inhalation of test gas. Manufacturers must provide theformat details to permit users to import the data. The complete specifications for the data file are given inthe supplementary materials.

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Reference valuesThe Global Lung Health Initiative (GLI) is currently working on the development of global referencevalues for DLCO which will very likely be in a similar structure to the GLI spirometry reference values[128]. Implementation of these reference values requires more complexity than simply insertingcoefficients for polynomials and a DLCO system must be able to implement this method of calculatingreference values. A list of reference values for DLCO developed using methods that adhere to the 2005DLCO standards is provided in table 5 [4].

SummaryIt is not the intention of the new standards to render older equipment or instrumentation with alveolarsample chambers or bags, that is still in current use, obsolete. The 2005 ATS/ERS standards address thistype of instrumentation. It is recognised that some equipment which meets the 2005 standards willcontinue to be used but the expectation is that new equipment will meet or exceed the new standards.Some of the systems currently available will be able to meet the new standards with software upgrades.

As already noted, the changes in DLCO standards will not impact the applicability of reference values. Ingeneral, pulmonary function measurements are more accurate and precise in normal, healthy subjects thanin patients with lung disease so that changes which improve the measurement of DLCO will have lessimpact on normal, healthy subjects, which favours the continued applicability of reference values derivedusing older systems. There are already systematic differences among reference value sets for DLCO whichare related to the equipment and methodology which impact their applicability. Some reference values

TABLE 4 DLCO reporting requirements

Variable# Requirement

DLCO (unadjusted) RequiredDLCO (adjusted for PB) RequiredDLCO (LLN and/or z-score) RequiredDLCO (predicted) RequiredDLCO (adjusted,predicted) Optional (required if any adjustments

made-specify adjustments)DLCO (% of predicted) RequiredVA (BTPS) RequiredVA (LLN and/or z-score) RequiredVA (% of predicted) OptionalKCO RequiredKCO (LLN and/or z-score) RequiredKCO (predicted) RequiredKCO (% of predicted) RequiredPB RequiredtBH RequiredVI (BTPS) RequiredFowler (anatomic) dead-space Required for RGA systemsTLCsb Required for RGA systemsReference values source RequiredTest quality grade Recommended (include % variability in

DLCO acceptable manoeuvres)Operator comments Required (number of manoeuvres, number

of acceptable manoeuvres)Graphs Required (full manoeuvre and exhaled

gas concentration versus volume with samplecollection indicated for RGA systems)

Hb Optional (required if used to adjust DLCO)COHb Optional (required if used to adjust DLCO)Alternative calculations (e.g. three-equation DLCO,normalised slope of phase III)


BTPS: body temperature, ambient pressure, saturated with water vapour; LLN: lower limit of normal; DLCO:diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide; VA: alveolar volume; KCO: transfer coefficient of the lungfor carbon monoxide; PB: barometric pressure; tBH: breath-hold time; VI (BTPS): inspired volume under BTPSconditions; VA (BTPS): alveolar volume under BTPS conditions; TLCsb: single-breath total lung capacity;Hb: haemoglobin; COHb: carboxyhaemoglobin; RGA: rapidly responding gas analyser. #: for DLCO, VA, KCO,tBH, VI, VDanat and TLCsb the average values from the acceptable and repeatable manoeuvres are reported.

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currently in use were developed prior to the publication of the 2005 ATS/ERS standards [4]. Hence, thereis already a pressing need for reliable, comprehensive reference values for DLCO.

Advances in technology have outpaced guidelines and standards. These revisions to the DLCO standardsare required to make optimal use of existing, clinically available technology. Guidelines and standardsshould not constrain progress in the improvement of pulmonary function measurements but should serveto continually improve the quality of DLCO measurements.

Recommendations for research directionsIn the course of developing these technical standards, the following areas were identified as candidates forresearch studies to fill knowledge gaps and provide more specific guidelines.

1) Conduct studies of DLCO in normal, healthy subjects in ethnicities other than Caucasian over a wideage range to either validate the use of Caucasian reference values or develop ethnicity-specificreference values.

2) Develop a standardised common report form for pulmonary function testing that can be the defaultfor all laboratories and electronic medical record systems.

3) Determine the effect of barometric pressure on DLCO in normal subjects and COPD patients over arange of pressures reflecting altitudes from sea level to 2500 m to either confirm or replace equations40 and 41.

4) Determine the effects of obesity on VDanat, TLCsb and DLCO.5) Determine whether Hb measured by skin prick or venipuncture is more appropriate for DLCO

adjustment and conduct studies to confirm or revise the relationship between Hb and DLCO

expressed in equations 31 and 32.6) Determine normal Hb levels in populations of different ethnicity and geographical location.7) Test the proposed DLCO grading scale in large clinical databases for both classical and RGA DLCO

systems.8) Determine the impact of carbon dioxide retention on DLCO measurements.9) Determine the sensitivity and action levels for the assessment of gas analyser linearity using the

dilution of test gas in a calibration syringe.10) Determine the repeatability of calculating VA and TLCsb by the method in equation 26 which uses

all of the tracer gas concentration data throughout the manoeuvre.

In addition to these research directions, there is also a need to update the guidelines for the interpretationof pulmonary function tests in general and of DLCO in particular.

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TABLE 5 Reference values for DLCO from studies that complied with the 2005 AmericanThoracic Society/European Respiratory Society DLCO standards

Author# Year Country Age Subjects

Thompson [129] 2008 Australia 45–71 years 498 male/474 femaleKoopman¶ [130] 2011 Netherlands 7–18 years 278 male/265 femaleGarcia-Rio¶ [131] 2012 Spain 65–85 years 169 male/262 femaleKim [132] 2012 USA and Australia 5–19 years 225 male/254 femaleThomas [133] 2014 Denmark 5–17 years male/female (297 total)Michailopoulos [134] 2015 Greece 18–91 years 234 male/233 femaleVerbanck [135] 2016 Belgium 20–80 years 128 male/124 female

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What is the method of DLCO? ›

In the single-breath technique for measuring Dlco, the patient exhales completely to RV and inhales to TLC a gas mixture of 0.3% CO and an inert gas (usually helium or methane). The subject holds his or her breath for 10 seconds, during which CO diffuses into the blood.

How to calculate DLCO? ›

Total lung volume, initial and final CO concentration, and breath-holding time are used to calculate DLCO. The recommended timing method used is the Jones and Meade method, which measures breath holding time at thirty percent of inspiratory time up to half of the sampling time.

What is the DLCO maneuver? ›

It helps your healthcare provider understand how well your lungs are working. During the test, you breathe in a gas that contains a small amount of carbon monoxide. The test measures how much carbon monoxide passes from your lungs to your blood, or the “diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide” (DLCO for short).

What is the test for carbon monoxide diffusing capacity? ›

Spirometry is the most common and widely used lung function test, followed by diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO). It is also known as the transfer factor. DLCO is a measurement to assess the lungs' ability to transfer gas from inspired air to the bloodstream.

What is the formula for diffusion capacity? ›

It is a product of the rate constant of CO uptake, i.e., fall in concentration of alveolar CO per unit time per unit driving pressure (also called the Krogh's constant [KCO]) and the alveolar volume (VA) at full lung inflation. [1] Normally, DLCO and VA are measured and KCO is calculated as DLCO/VA.

How to correct DLCO for alveolar volume? ›

The equations for adjustment of predicted DLCO and KCO for alveolar volume are: DLCO/DL COtlc = 0.58 + 0.42 VA/VAtlc, KCO/KCOtlc = 0.42 + 0.58/(VA/VAtlc).

What is a normal DLCO ratio? ›

In healthy adults, DLCO/VA is ∼4–5 ml CO transferred/min/l of lung volume [4]. A normal DLCO/VA cannot exclude ILD. A decreased DLCO/VA, however, strongly suggests parenchymal lung disease (ILD, emphysema) or pulmonary vascular disease (pulmonary hypertension) [3].

Why is DLCO measured? ›

The DLCO measures the ability of the lungs to transfer gas from inhaled air to the red blood cells in pulmonary capillaries. The DLCO test is convenient and easy for the patient to perform.

What is a complete pulmonary function test with DLCO? ›

What is complete pulmonary function testing? Complete pulmonary function tests are a group of tests that include spirometry, diffusion capacity (DLCO), and lung volumes that are used in detecting, characterizing, and quantifying the severity of lung disease.

What is the normal range for DLCO ml min mmHg? ›

The mean values for DLCO and DLCO/VA were 28.05±5.07 ml/min/mmHg, 4.569±0.694 ml/min/mmHg/L for men and 20.79±4.03 ml/min/mmHg, 4.695±0.743 ml/min/mmHg/L for women, respectively. The values for DLCO and DLCO/VA disclosed significantly negative correlation with advancing age and positive correlation with height.

What is considered a significant change in DLCO? ›

Rationale: American Thoracic Society guidelines state that a 10% or greater intersession change in diffusing capacity of the lung (DLCO) should be considered clinically significant.

Does exercise improve DLco? ›

Pulmonary diffusing capacity for oxygen increases progressively with increasing severity of exercise; it exceeds the DlCO at high levels of exercise by amounts greater than can be accounted for by the difference in diffusivity of the test gases.

What is the normal range for carbon monoxide breath test? ›

4 The guid- ance says: “Some suggest a CO level as low as 3 ppm, others use a cut-off point of 6–10 ppm. It is important to note that CO quickly disappears from expired breath. As a result, low levels of smoking may go undetected and may be indistinguishable from passive smoking.

How do you get rid of carbon monoxide in your body naturally? ›

Oxygen therapy allows your body to get rid of carbon monoxide faster than just breathing the air around you. In contrast, the half-life of carbon monoxide without using oxygen is 320 minutes—more than five hours to reduce levels by half.

How is the DLCO test done? ›

How the Test is Performed. You breathe in (inhale) air containing a very small amount of carbon monoxide and a tracer gas, such as methane or helium. You hold your breath for 10 seconds, then rapidly blow it out (exhale). The exhaled gas is tested to determine how much of the tracer gas was absorbed during the breath.

Is DLCO the same as PFT? ›

Abstract. Measurement of diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO), also known as transfer factor, is the second most important pulmonary function test (PFT), after spirometry.

Does oxygen help with low DLCO? ›

In this observational study, the risk of death was significantly lower for patients with severe DLCO reduction who received supplemental oxygen compared with those who did not.

How to treat low DLCO? ›

Patients with a DLco < 46% were more often treated with pulmonary vasodilators and had a trend to higher mortality and lung transplant. DLco% is a simple non-invasive screening test for the presence of exercise pulmonary hypertension in our mixed referral population with progressive exertional dyspnea.

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