Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Carbon monoxide and exercise tolerance in chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 283 doi: (Published 03 October 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;283:878
  1. P M Calverley,
  2. R J Leggett,
  3. D C Flenley


    The effects of carbon monoxide on exercise tolerance as assessed by the distance walked in 12 minutes were studied in 15 patients with severe chronic bronchitis and emphysema (mean forced expiratory volume in one second 0.56 1, mean forced vital capacity 1.54 1). Each subject walked breathing air and oxygen before and after exposure to sufficient carbon monoxide to raise their venous carboxyhaemoglobin concentration by 9%. There was a significant reduction in the walking distance when the patients breathed air after exposure to carbon monoxide (p less than 0.01), and the significant increase in walking distance seen after exercise when breathing oxygen at 2 1/minute via nasal cannulae was abolished if carbon monoxide has previously been administered. Thus concentrations of carboxyhaemoglobin frequently found in bronchitic patients who smoke may reduce their tolerance of everyday exercise, possibly by interfering with the transport of oxygen to exercising muscles.