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Pediatr Pulmonol. 1999 Jan;27(1):54-8.

Reference values of exhaled nitric oxide for healthy children 6-15 years old.

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University Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Padua, Italy.


Nitric oxide (NO) can be detected in human exhaled air, and its endogenous production is increased in patients with asthma. It may provide a noninvasive means for measuring airway inflammation. The aim of this study was to establish reference values for exhaled NO concentrations in a large number of healthy school-age children. We measured exhaled NO levels in 159 white healthy children (88 girls, 71 boys, age range 6-15 years) recruited from two public schools of Padua, Italy. Exhaled NO levels in exhaled gas were measured by a tidal breathing method with a chemiluminescence analyzer, and NO steady-state levels were recorded. Nasal NO levels were measured by direct sampling from the nose during mouth breathing. The mean concentration of endogenous NO in orally exhaled gas was 8.7 parts per billion (ppb) (95% confidence interval (C.I.), 8.1-9.2 ppb) and sampled data followed a log-normal distribution (Kolmogorov-Smirnov d = 0.77, P > 0.2). No difference was found between boys (mean value, 8.4 ppb; 95% C.I., 7.3-9.4 ppb) and girls (mean value, 8.9 ppb; 95% C.I., 7.9-9.9 ppb). No significant correlation was found between age, height, or spirometric data and exhaled NO levels (r < 0.2). The mean value of nasal NO concentrations was 216 ppb (95% C.I., 204-228 ppb). There was no correlation between exhaled and nasal NO values (r = 0.16, P = ns). In conclusion, this study establishes a reference range for exhaled NO values measured by a tidal breathing method in children between age 6-15 years. The observed levels are independent of age, gender, and lung function, and can be used to monitor airway inflammation in asthmatic children.

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