Short of breath with normal X-Ray but... - British Lung Foun...

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Short of breath with normal X-Ray but low DLCO level.


Reposting this hoping to get some feedback!

I have been experiencing shortness of breath and chest tightness for 6 weeks now. I had a chest X-Ray that came back clear.

My breathing test, however, revealed a low DLCO level at 60.4% of predicted value and a DLCO/VA of 99.3% of predicted value.

My other respiratory levels are within the normal range - so it is only the DLCO that is low.

The doctor has ordered a CT Scan, which I am getting done Thursday, but I am petrified at the idea that these numbers could mean I have lung disease. My breathlessness is now constant.

I was running around, jogging, and was very active until 2 months ago when I started feeling numbness in my right leg. I was tested for muscle and nerve disorders and everything came back clear. A few weeks after that, the heavy chest and breathlessness started.

I am a 49 year old woman.

Has anyone else experienced anything similar? Needless to say, I am a nervous wreck.

Many thanks to anyone who can help.

11 Replies

This lots things can effect delco SUCH as cooking and guess blood works ... even manupause HOW mads that.

As to your numbers am just speculating if numbers was mine but the say normal gas exchange can rage from 75 - 140% and that’s normal

Clearly 60% is just under normal limit AND the say if Fev is normal but delco is low THAT point’s to Emphysema.

I don’t know if that’s normal decline given age occupation history stuff like that but I surspect is

Like I say I would think 💭 given numbers I had mild emphysema given age AND not worry especially as X-ray was clear

Nobody on this site is qualified to give you a diagnosis based on the figure for your DLCO and to do so could alarm you for no reason and you need to get a proper evaluation from your respiratory consultant as to what is happening and DLCO is just one small part of a full spirometry evaluation so for the moment rest easy and don't for one moment consider you have a serious lung condition until he has evaluated all the data he will have received.

Best wishes Ski's and Scruffy. :)

2greys in reply to skischool

I have to agree, nobody on this site is qualified to give any kind of diagnosis, not only can an unqualified diagnosis cause unnecessary anxiety but could actually be dangerous. Stick with the professionals.

Consultants in the UK go through the same training as doctors and then spend a few more years getting additional education and training in their chosen specialty. After completing your medical degree it will take you another 7 to 9 years at the minimum to be able to practice as a hospital consultant. That is on top of becoming a hospital doctor where you have to do your 5year degree, 2 foundation years, then probably around 5 years training depending on your specialty area.

Hello Hoola,

Relax and wait for the results of the CT scan. The consultant will be able to tell you much more when he sees the scan


Hi. Last year in January I had extreme sob symptoms that lasted for literally around 1 year. All of a sudden it was like someone had flicked a switch and I couldn't breathe. I remember as I was watching the football and thought, hold on, I cant breathe?! Any hoo, after multiple trips to the docs, a and e etc etc, x Ray's, my peak flow was and still is around 700 to 750, the doctors concluded I had an asthma variant. Before all of this I was extremely fit, keen runner, gym goer etc. I had spiro and lft bot of which were above average for my age, apparently I have big lungs. The shock and misery of not being able to breathe lead to depression and heavy drinking. Things were not good. Leading into this year, the tightness etc started to subside, and things got a little better, until around april, when I crashed again.

Another spiro showed my lung function had IMPROVED, but an xray showed a nodule. So, booked in for a ct scan, had that, saw the pulmonologist who just so happened to tell me he was a "lung expert", that this nodule was nothing more than a bone. I'm now on symbicort for asthma, my symptoms are touch wood back to baseline and I can do again all of the things i love.

Basically what I'm saying is, don't worry to much. You never know what can happen, and doctor google IS NOT your friend.

Hope this helps.


MrsD1134 in reply to Hidden

So just to clarify, you had tests that did not indicate asthma but you were treated for it and got better?

Hidden in reply to MrsD1134

Hi there. It was all very strange. I had strange symptoms, shortness of breath, no wheezing, very good peak flow, and a good fev1 on spirometery, big lungs etc. My symptoms went on for a year or more, and came on all of a sudden. I had an xray which showed a structural change in my lung, but a ct scan later revealed this was a broken rib that had healed. My symptoms are better, but I'm still on fobumix easyhaler twice a day for asthma. Hope this helps.


Until the scan results are back try to distract yourself. It's natural to be concerned but concerns about the unknown aren't going to make a difference. Stress and anxiety worrying about dozens of "what if" scenarios won't change the results but they can do far more harm than good. I know it's easier said than done but I know from personal experience what stress can do and how damaging it can be.

Hi: Going through the same. My DLCO 40%. (Normal spirometry - non-smoker). You can probably ignore the DLCO/VA (I am doing this from memory, but my doc said that it is an adjustment for the amount of space across which gasses could flow – but ask your doc – dlco/va is also called kco).

In my case the X-rays and the CT-scans came out clear. Your do may also have you do an echo-cardiogram. I have had 3 of these, 2 with a bubble saline solution. In the latter they are looking for what they call a shunt holes in your heart (or elsewhere) that allow some blood to bypass the oxygenation process of the lungs. If they find it, that can be fixed. It is not uncommon - usually does not cause symptoms. In my case, I have a small one, too small to explain my symptoms.

If your scans are clear, they may also order a right heart catheter. In my case, they put a monitor through an artery in my arm so they could measure the pressure on the right side of my heart (or lung - not sure which). Turned out I did not have the pulmonary arterial hypertension they were looking for. PAH can be managed. (BTW, you can have PAH even if you normally have low blood pressure).

Somewhere in all these tests, normally, they find an answer - and can then provide the appropriate treatment or fix. Unfortunately, for me, none of the above provided a clue. I hope you do not have to go this far, because the next step is a lung biopsy, which I just went through – no fun.

Good luck.

PS. There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of potential causes – for low DLCO. It takes time for the doctors to narrow it down. Once again – good luck.

Hoola1 in reply to dougr99

Thank you. My CT scan showed very mild emphysema but nothing that explains my symptoms. I’m an ex smoker so the doctor said that would explain the emphysema. I’ve had an echo cardiogram and it was also normal. I’m still at a loss, especially as my other symptom - perhaps unrelated - is regular tingling in my legs and sometimes hands. I’m just going to stop the tests for a while because they are causing immense anxiety and I need a break from them! Good luck to you.

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