Longitudinal decline in measured firefighter single-breath diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide values: A respiratory surveillance dilemma

Jefferey L. Burgess, C. Andrew Brodkin, William E. Daniell, George P. Pappas, Matthew C. Keifer, Bert D. Stover, Steven D. Edland, Scott Barnhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Seattle firefighters participate in a voluntary annual medical surveillance program including measurements of ventilatory capacity (FVC and FEV1) and single-breath diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide (DL(CO)). From 1989 to 1996, average % predicted DL(CO) (Crapo) for all participating firefighters declined from 94.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 93.4% to 95.5%) to 87.3% (95% CI: 86.2% to 88.3%), with no significant change in average FVC or FEV1. A random-effects regression model based on data from 812 firefighters with at least two annual sets of DL(CO) measurements showed the expected associations between DEco and age, height, gender, race, ventilatory capacity, and smoking. In addition, two important temporal changes were observed, including, for an average firefighter, a large mean decline in DL(CO) of -1.02 ml/min/mm Hg associated with year of measurement, and a relatively smaller decline of -0.006 ml/min/mm Hg associated with number of fires fought. Although the stability of ventilatory capacity over time is reassuring, the marked temporal decline in diffusing capacity among this population of firefighters raises issues of concern. Interpretation of the observed decline poses a dilemma in terms of the reliability and efficacy of diffusing capacity as a screening tool, in whether DL(CO) is subject to unacceptable technical variability or whether it might provide more sensitive detection of early adverse respiratory effects of smoke inhalation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-124
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Volume159
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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