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Thorax. 2002 Jul;57(7):586-9.

Nitric oxide in chronic airway inflammation in children: diagnostic use and pathophysiological significance.

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  • 1Department of Paediatrics, Royal Brompton Hospital, Imperial School of Medicine, London SW3 6NP, UK.



The levels of exhaled and nasal nitric oxide (eNO and nNO) in groups of patients with inflammatory lung diseases are well documented but the diagnostic use of these measurements in an individual is unknown.


The levels of nNO and eNO were compared in 31 children with primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), 21 with non-CF bronchiectasis (Bx), 17 with cystic fibrosis (CF), 35 with asthma (A), and 53 healthy controls (C) using a chemiluminescence NO analyser. A diagnostic receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) curve for PCD using NO was constructed.


The median (range) levels of nNO in parts per billion (ppb) in PCD, Bx, CF, and C were 60.3 (3.3-920), 533.6 (80-2053), 491.3 (31-1140), and 716 (398-1437), respectively; nNO levels were significantly lower in PCD than in all other groups (p<0.05). The median (range) levels of eNO in ppb in PCD, Bx, CF, A, and C were 2.0 (0.2-5.2), 5.4 (1.0-22.1), 2.6 (0.8-12.9), 10.7 (1.6-46.7), and 4.85 (2.5-18.3), respectively. The difference in eNO levels in PCD reached significance (p<0.05) when compared with those in Bx, A and C but not when compared with CF. Using the ROC curve, nNO of 250 ppb showed a sensitivity of 97% and a specificity of 90% for the diagnosis of PCD.


eNO and nNO cannot be used diagnostically to distinguish between most respiratory diseases. However, nNO in particular is a quick and useful diagnostic marker which may be used to screen patients with a clinical suspicion of PCD.

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