Clinical and Prognostic Impact of Low Diffusing Capacity for Carbon Monoxide Values in Patients With Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease I COPD


      The Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) does not promote diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (Dlco) values in the evaluation of COPD. In GOLD spirometric stage I COPD patients, the clinical and prognostic impact of a low Dlco has not been explored.

      Research Question

      Could a Dlco threshold help define an increased risk of death and a different clinical presentation in these patients?

      Study Design and Methods

      GOLD stage I COPD patients (n = 360) were enrolled and followed over 109 ± 50 months. Age, sex, pack-years’ history, BMI, dyspnea, lung function measurements, exercise capacity, BODE index, and history of exacerbations were recorded. A cutoff value for Dlco was identified for all-cause mortality and the clinical and physiological characteristics of patients above and below the threshold compared. Cox regression analysis explored the predictive power of that cutoff value for all-cause mortality.


      A Dlco cutoff value of <60% predicted was associated with all-cause mortality (Dlco ≥ 60%: 9% vs Dlco < 60%: 23%, P = .01). At a same FEV1% predicted and Charlson score, patients with Dlco < 60% had lower BMI, more dyspnea, lower inspiratory capacity (IC)/total lung capacity (TLC) ratio, lower 6-min walk distance (6MWD), and higher BODE. Cox multiple regression analysis confirmed that after adjusting for age, sex, pack-years history, smoking status, and BMI, a Dlco < 60% is associated with all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 95% CI = 3.37, 1.35-8.39; P = .009)


      In GOLD I COPD patients, a Dlco < 60% predicted is associated with increased risk of death and worse clinical presentation. What the cause(s) of this association are and whether they can be treated need to be determined.

      Key Words


      6MWD (6-min walk distance), ATS (American Thoracic Society), BODE (BMI, airflow obstruction, dyspnea, exercise performance), CHAIN (COPD History Assessment In SpaiN), Dlco (diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide), GOLD (Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease), HR (hazard ratio), IC (inspiratory capacity), TLC (total lung capacity)
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