Background: Oxidative stress plays a role in the pathogenesis and progression of interstitial lung disease (ILD). Exhaled ethane is a product of lipid peroxidation that has been proposed as a biomarker of oxidative stress in vivo.
Objectives: To determine whether the exhaled ethane level is elevated in patients with ILD and to compare it with other clinical parameters.
Methods: Breath samples were collected from 34 patients with ILD, including 13 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), 9 patients with cryptogenic organizing pneumonia, 6 patients with collagen vascular disease-associated interstitial pneumonia, and 6 patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis. Gas samples were obtained at hospital admission and after 3 weeks. After each expired sample was concentrated using a trap-and-purge procedure, the ethane level was analyzed by gas chromatography.
Results: Exhaled ethane levels were elevated in ILD patients (n = 34, mean ± SD, 8.5 ± 8.0 pmol/dL) compared with healthy volunteers (n = 16, 2.9 ± 1.0 pmol/dL; p < 0.001). Serial measurements revealed that increase and decrease of ethane levels were largely consistent with the clinical course. Four patients with IPF who had persistently high ethane levels died or deteriorated, whereas those with ethane levels < 5.0 pmol/dL remained stable or improved. Exhaled ethane concentrations were positively correlated with levels of lactate dehydrogenase (Spearman rank correlation coefficient [rs], 0.28, p = 0.026) and C-reactive protein (rs, 0.38, p = 0.025) and were inversely correlated with Pao2 (rs, − 0.40, p = 0.0026). Patients showing increased uptake on 67Ga scintigraphy demonstrated higher ethane levels (n = 19, 7.5 ± 5.7 pmol/dL) compared with those who did not show increased uptake on scintigraphy (n = 10, 3.0 ± 2.4 pmol/dL; p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Exhaled ethane is elevated in patients with ILD and is correlated with the clinical outcome, suggesting that it provides useful information about ongoing oxidative stress, and thereby disease activity and severity in ILD.