Research Article

Are "pink puffers" more breathless than "blue bloaters"?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 286 doi: (Published 15 January 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:179
  1. M A Johnson,
  2. A A Woodcock,
  3. M Rehahn,
  4. D M Geddes


    Breathlessness, disability, and exercise tolerance were assessed in 26 patients with severe chronic airflow limitation (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than or equal to 1 litre) divided into two groups--15 patients who were normocapnic (pressure of arterial carbon dioxide (Paco2) less than 5.5 kPa (less than 41.4 mm Hg)), and 11 patients who were hypercapnic (Paco2 greater than 6 kPa (greater than than 45.1 mm Hg)). The two groups were well matched for spirometric values (FEV1 0.59 1 and 0.62 1, respectively). All of the hypercapnic patients could improve blood gas tensions towards normal by hyperventilation. There were no significant differences in visual analogue scores of breathlessness during treadmill exercise, disability (oxygen-cost diagram, dyspnoea grade), or exercise tolerance (six-minute walk, maximal consumption of oxygen during bicycle ergometry, distance walked to exhaustion in progressive treadmill test). The findings show that the "fight" to maintain normal blood gas tensions in the face of severe airflow limitation does not have an appreciable cost in terms of disability.