Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition restores the diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide in patients with chronic heart failure by improving the molecular diffusion across the alveolar capillary membrane

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Conductance of alveolar capillary membrane (D(M)) and capillary blood volume (V(C)) are the subcomponents of the pulmonary diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLco). In chronic heart failure, stress failure of the membrane provides a mechanism for reduced D(M) and subsequent impairment of DLco. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition improves DLco in patients with chronic heart failure. This study was aimed at investigating which of the two subcomponents of DLco is affected by angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Twenty-seven patients with NYHA class II to III chronic heart failure (group I) and 13 age- and sex-matched normal subjects underwent pulmonary function testing with determination of D(M) and V(C), while receiving placebo and 48 h and 1 and 2 months after starting enalapril treatment (10 mg twice daily). Nine similar patients (group 2) received isosorbide dinitrate (40 mg thrice daily) for a month then enalapril for another month, and underwent pulmonary function testing at 48 h and month after starting treatments. Effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition in normal controls were not significant in the short- or mid-term. In group I patients, the only change observed at 48 h was a reduction in V(C) (probably due to a decrease in capillary pulmonary pressure). There was a marked increase in D(M) to a similar extent at 1 and 2 months, resulting in a significant improvement in DLco despite a decrease in V(C). In group 2 patients, nitrates failed to improve DLco and D(M), whereas enalapril was as effective as in group I. These observations suggest a modulatory effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition on the membrane function which emerges gradually and persists over time and is probably dissociated from changes in pulmonary capillary pressure and V(C). Chronic heart failure disturbs the alveolar capillary interface and increases gas diffusion resistance; angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition restores the diffusive properties of the membrane and gas transfer, and protects the lung when the heart is failing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-22
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999



  • Enalapril
  • Pulmonary capillary blood
  • Pulmonary function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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