Open Access

Effects on respiratory function of the head-down position and the complete covering of the face by drapes during insertion of the monitoring catheters in the cardiosurgical patient

  • Massimo Bertolissi1,
  • Flavio Bassi1,
  • Adriana Di Silvestre1 and
  • Francesco Giordano1
Critical Care19993:85

DOI: 10.1186/cc345

Received: 18 June 1998

Accepted: 8 June 1999

Published: 25 June 1999

Abstract

Background

We evaluated the effect on the respiratory gas exchange of the30° head-down position and the complete covering of the face by steriledrapes. These are used to cannulate the internal jugular vein and position thepulmonary artery catheter in the cardiosurgical patient. During the twomanoeuvres, 20 coronary patients and 10 patients with end-stage heart diseasewere supplied with oxygen (FiO2 =0.4) by aVenturi mask, while 20 coronary patients breathed room air. The arterial bloodsamples to measure oxygen (PaO2) and carbon dioxide(PaCO2) tension and oxygen saturation (SaO2) wereanalysed by a blood gas system.

Results

The contemporary application of the head-down position and thedrapes over the face significantly increased PaO2 andSaO2 in all the patientssupplied with oxygen. Without the head-downposition, leaving the drapes over the face, did not significantly change thetwo parameters in the coronary patients supplied with oxygen, but induced asignificant increase in PaO2 and SaO2 in the patientswith end-stage heart disease. In the coronary patients that were breathing roomair, PaO2 and SaO2 were stable throughout the study.

Conclusions

We conclude that the 30° head-down position and the completecovering of the face by drapes does not interfere with respiratory gas exchangeand can be safely performed in coronary patients supplied with oxygen orbreathing room air and in patients with end-stage heart disease supplied withoxygen (FiO2 of 0.4).

Keywords

drapes covering the face head-down position left ventricular ejection fraction respiratory gases exchange

Introduction

The complete covering of the face by sterile drapes is a manoeuvre routinely used to cannulate the internal jugular vein and position the pulmonary artery catheter. The head-down position is a manoeuvre associated with that of sterile drapes when particular conditions (big and short neck, hypovolemia) make the cannulation of the jugular vein difficult [1]. Experimental and clinical studies have shown that the head-down position can interfere with respiratory function by reducing the functional residual capacity (FRC) and increasing the pulmonary blood volume [2,3,4]. A literature search found no data supporting a negative effect on respiratory function with the drapes covering the face; however, we hypothesized such a negative influence, supposing that the application of the sterile drapes over the face can favour the rebreathing of the expired gases. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect on respiratory gas exchange of the two combined manoeuvres used during the insertion of monitoring catheters in the cardiosurgical patient before induction of anaesthesia.

Methods

Fifty-four patients scheduled for elective coronary bypass grafting (CABG; 43 coronary patients) and heart transplantation (11 patients with end-stage heart disease) were studied. The study protocol was approved by the local Ethical Committee, and written informed consent was obtained from each patient. Admission criteria for the study were: no history of respiratory disease and no intravenous cardiovascular drugs (for all patients); stable haemodynamic conditions, assessed by clinical examination, and no unstable angina (for patients undergoing CABG); and no rest dyspnoea (for patients undergoing heart transplantation).

Before induction of anaesthesia, all patients were placed in the head-down position (30°) and had their face completely covered by sterile drapes (Foliodrape, Hartmann, Heidenhein, Germany) to position the monitoring catheters. The head-down position was maintained until the internal jugular vein was cannulated, while the sterile drapes were removed after the pulmonary artery catheter was inserted. The coronary patients were randomly divided into four groups:

Group A1 (n = 10), coronary patients with preoperative left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) > 45%, supplied during the two manoeuvres with oxygen by a Venturi mask (REF 001240G, Allegiance Healthcare Corp, Illinois, USA) suitable to guarantee a concentration of oxygen in the inspired gases of 40% (FiO2 = 0.4);

Group A2 (n=10), coronary patients with preoperative LVEF > 45% breathing room air during the two manoeuvres;

Group B1 (n = 10), coronary patients with preoperative LVEF < 45% supplied with oxygen (FiO2 = 0.4);

Group B2 (n= 10), coronary patients with preoperative LVEF < 45% breathing room air;

Group C (n = 10), patients with end-stage heart disease were admitted consecutively to the study and were supplied with oxygen (FiO2 = 0.4).

In all patients, LVEF was assessed by cardiac angiography.

The arterial blood samples to determine oxygen (PaO2) and carbon dioxide (PaCO2) tension and oxygen saturation (SaO2) were drawn at the following times:

time 1 = in supine position with all patients breathing room air;

time 2 = in supine position only in patients supplied with oxygen by the Venturi mask (groups A1, B1 and C);

time 3 = just before removing the patient from the 30° head-down position;

time 4 = just before removing the drapes covering the face;

time 5 = 5 min after the drapes have been removed.

The analysis of the blood samples was performed by the same operator, using a blood gas system (model 288, Ciba Corning Medfield, Massachusetts, USA) located just outside the operating room. The coronary patients were premedicated with morphine 0.1 mg/kg and scopolamine 0.3–0.5 mg intramuscularly; the patients with end-stage heart disease were premedicated with diazepam 3–5 mg orally. All of these drugs were administered 60 min before entering the operating room. Monitoring of the patients during the study included an electrocardiogram (ECG) (DII-V5), and measurements of the invasive arterial pressure, noninvasive oxygen saturation and respiratory rate. We excluded from the study three coronary patients (two for an anginal episode and one for restlessness) and one patient with end-stage heart disease (for restlessness), as the drapes were temporarily removed in these patients, and nitroglycerin or benzodiazepine were administered.

The results are expressed as means± standard deviation (SD). The data were analysed using the Student's t test with Bonferroni correction; P values < 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

Results

The main data on the general characteristics of the patients (age, weight, preoperative LVEF, preoperative therapy) are reported in Table 1; the times of the head-down position and covering of the face by drapes are reported in Table 2. There were no significant differences among the five groups regarding age, weight and the duration of the two manoeuvres. The results on the behaviour of the arterial respiratory gas tension and the haemoglobin oxygen saturation at the five times are shown in Table 3.

Compared with the basal conditions and time 1 for groups A2 and B2 and time 2 for groups A1, B1, C, PaO2 and SaO2 increased significantly (P < 0.05) in all patients supplied with oxygen (groups A1, B1, and C) at times 3 and 4. A similar comparison between times 3 and 4 showed a small nonsignificant increase in PaO2 and SaO2 in groups A1 and B1, and a significant increase (P< 0.05) in PaO2 and SaO2 in group C. After stopping the head-down position and removal of the drapes covering the face (time 5), PaO2 and SaO2 returned to the values similar to those recorded at time 2.

The patient breathing room air during the two manoeuvres (groups A2 and B2) showed a very slight, nonsignificant change in PaO2 and SaO2 at times 3, 4 and 5.

PaCO2 remained stable, without significant change within each group at all times of the study.

The statistical analysis among the groups supplied with oxygen (A1, B1 and C) indicated significant higher values of PaO2 and SaO2 (P <0.05) in group C when compared with groups A1 and B1 at the five different time points of the study, with no significant change for PaCO2. The comparison between the groups breathing room air (A2 versus B2) showed no significant change in the three parameters at all times. In patients in groups A2 and B2, SaO2 was never below 93% during the two manoeuvres [5].

The respiratory rate was very stable, without significant change within each group throughout the study; however, it was significantly higher (P <0.05) in group C versus the other four groups at all times (Table 4).
Table 1

General characteristics of the patients studied

   

Groups

  
 

A1

A2

B1

B2

C

Weight (kg)

73 ± 10

80 ± 14

76 ± 14

73 ± 10

75 ± 10

Age (years)

60 ± 11

58 ± 8

63 ± 7

61 ± 7

55 ± 6

LVEF (%)

68 ± 5

65 ± 8

33 ± 8

36 ± 5

22 ± 5

Preoperative therapy

     

   Nitroderivates (n)

8

6

10

8

5

  β-Blockers (n)

10

8

6

6

1

  Calcium antagonists (n)

3

5

2

4

 

  Digoxin (n)

  

1

3

10

  Furosemide (n)

  

2

1

10

  ACE inhibitors (n)

 

2

7

3

7

No significant difference was observed among the five groups forage, weight and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). ACE, angiotensinconverting enzyme. For definition of groups, please see text.

Table 2

Duration of the two manoeuvres

   

Groups

  
 

A1

A2

B1

B2

C

Head-down time (min)

8.2 ± 3

7.7 ± 2

9.6 ± 7

8.3 ± 3

8.1± 2

Drape time (min)

16.1 ± 3

17.3 ± 4

17.1 ± 10

15.8 ± 4

15.5 ± 2

No significant difference was observed among the five groups. Fordefinition of groups, please see text.

Table 3

Arterial respiratory gas modifications at the five times of the study

    

Times

  

Function

Group

1

2

3

4

5

PaO2

A1

69.6 ± 5

111.9 ± 28

147.2 ± 41*

157 ± 42

116 ± 25*

(mmHg)

A2

78.6 ± 8

 

78.1 ± 8

82.7 ± 9

78.7 ± 14

 

B1

68.8 ± 8

97.8 ± 17

146.5 ± 33*

156.6 ± 40

102.5 ± 13*

 

B2

87.9 ± 19

 

82 ± 12

88.2 ± 10

86.7 ± 10

 

C

81.3 ± 11

144.8 ± 27

208.7 ± 35*‡

233.7 ± 37*†‡

152.2 ± 31*‡

SaO2

A1

94.2 ± 1.4

97.7 ± 1.3

98.6 ± 0.9*

98.9 ± 0.5

98 ± 1*

(%)

A2

95.4 ± 1.3

 

95.3 ± 1.3

96 ± 1.2

95 ± 2.2

 

B1

93.7 ± 2.1

97.1 ± 1.5

98.7 ± 0.5*

98.8 ± 0.5

97.4 ± 1*

 

B2

96.2 ± 3.3

 

96 ± 1.6

96.8 ± 1.1

96.7 ± 1.1

 

C

96.4 ± 1.3

98.9 ± 0.3

99.4 ± 0.2*‡

99.6 ± 0.1*†‡

99 ± 0.4*‡

PaCO2

A1

39.2 ± 4

40.1 ± 4

40.3 ± 4

41.2 ± 4

40 ± 5

(mmHg)

A2

40.9 ± 3

 

41.3 ± 4

41.1 ± 5

41.1 ± 5

 

B1

39 ± 4

40.1 ± 5

41.6 ± 5

43.6 ± 6

43.8 ± 7

 

B2

38.9 ± 4

 

40.8 ± 4

40.6 ± 5

38.5 ± 3

 

C

35.9 ± 4

36.3 ± 6

37.5 ± 5

36.3 ± 4

35.6 ± 5

*P<0.05, versus the previous time withineach group; P <0.05, versus time 2 within eachgroup; P <0.05, versus groups A1 and B1 in thecorrespondent time. PaO2, arterial oxygen tension; SaO2,arterial oxygen saturation; PaCO2, arterial carbon dioxide tension.For a definition of the groups and times, please see text.

Discussion

The physiopathological modifications that occur in the respiratory system in the head-down position have been extensively studied [2,3,4,6]. Coonan and Hope [3], when analysing the cardiorespiratory effects of change in body position, concluded that the head-down position reduces the FRC in the lung region near the diaphragm, which is compressed by the weight of the abdominal content, and increases the pulmonary blood volume in the dependent parts of the lungs under the effect of both gravity and the increase in cardiac output [7]. The result of these physiological changes can modify the ventilation-perfusion ratio and can interfere with oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide elimination [7,8]. The application of the drapes completely covering the face could interfere with respiratory gas exchange by creating a chamber of stagnating air, which might favour the rebreathing of the expired gases through a dead-space effect. This effect was only hypothesized, as we found no such confirmation in the literature. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of the two manoeuvres on the respiratory gas exchange in the cardiosurgical patient, and also to find a correlation between the respiratory gas exchange modifications and the preoperative function of the left ventricle.

On the basis of the results obtained in our study, we can confirm that the 30° head-down position, used to cannulate the internal jugular vein, does not influence respiratory gas exchange in coronary patients both with reduced or preserved preoperative LVEF if they were breathing oxygen at FiO2 = 0.4 or breathing room air. This correlation is supported by the fact that moving the patient from the head-down position while leaving the drapes in place did not significantly change PaO2 or PaCO2 in patients in these groups.

In the patients with end-stage heart disease, moving the patient from the head-down position was effective in significantly improving arterial oxygenation. This result leads us to deduce that in these patients the use of the head-down position can interfere with arterial oxygenation, reducing arterial oxygen tension. The pulmonary circulation of the patient with end-stage heart disease, altered by previous episodes of left ventricular decompensation, is probably more sensitive to the effects of the increased intrathoracic blood volume, as happens in the head-down position, and this condition can lead to an increase in the intrapulmonary shunt fraction [9]. However, supplying these patients with oxygen at FiO2 =0.4 while in the head-down position maintained PaO2 and SaO2 above the low safety limits.

We did not test the respiratory effects of the two manoeuvres in the patients with end-stage heart disease breathing room air, as we considered such a condition to be not safe enough in patients affected by important alterations of the cardiovascular function [10].

Another characteristic of the patients with end-stage heart disease is represented by the higher values of PaO2 and SaO2 reached at the five times of the study when compared with the same parameters in the coronary patients supplied with oxygen. The different drugs administrated at the premedication time in the two groups can explain such behaviour. In fact, morphine may have depressed the respiratory function of the coronary patients more than did diazepam in the patients with end-stage heart disease [11,12]. This effect is supported by analysis of the results obtained at time 1: higher values of PaO2 and SaO2, lower values of PaCO2 and the higher respiratory rate in group C when compared with those of groups A1 and B1 may indicate superior ventilation in the patients with end-stage heart disease.

Considering the trend of arterial oxygenation, we can also deduce that the main factor responsible for the increase in PaO2 and SaO2 in all groups supplied with oxygen is the presence of the drapes completely covering the face. In these patients, the only contributing factor to the difference between time4 and the basal time is the covering of the face by drapes; body position and inspiratory oxygen concentration were constant. This effect leads us to hypothesize that the drapes applied over the face may have facilitated the increase in oxygen concentration in the inspired gases by slowing down its diffusion into the room air. If this mechanism was responsible for the increase in arterial oxygenation, we could also expect an increase in PaCO2 as a consequence of carbon dioxide increase in the air below the drapes, but this event did not happen. It is possible that carbon dioxide did not increase in the inspired gases because of its higher diffusion compared to oxygen through the drapes, as it occurs at the alveolar-capillary membrane [13], but we are unable to conclude this.

Furthermore, coronary patients not in the head-down position and breathing room air showed improved arterial oxygenation with the drapes applied over the face. However, the increase in PaO2 and SaO2 was smaller than that observed in patients supplied with oxygen, although the levels of arterial oxygen tension and saturation were still satisfactory.

Although the questions asked are not completely solved by this study, we conclude that the 30° head-down position and complete covering of the face by drapes (two manoeuvres that are frequently employed in anaesthesia, intensive care and emergency medicine during the insertion of the monitoring catheters) do not interfere with respiratory gas exchange and can be safely used in awake, premedicated coronary patients without respiratory disease. This applies whether they present a preserved or impaired LVEF and whether they breath oxygen at FiO2 = 0.4 or room air. In the patients with end-stage heart disease with no rest dyspnoea, the two manoeuvres can be safely employed if we supply oxygen at FiO2 =0.4.
Table 4

Respiratory rate at the five times of the study (breaths/min)

   

Time

  

Group

1

2

3

4

5

A1

13.3 ± 1.9

13.2 ± 2.1

13.6 ± 2.6

13.6 ± 2.4

13.4 ± 2.5

A2

13.2 ± 2

 

13.4 ± 2

13.4 ± 2.4

13.3 ± 1.9

B1

13.7 ± 1.5

13.8 ± 1.8

14 ± 2.3

14 ± 1.8

13.8 ± 2.1

B2

13.4 ± 2

 

13.4 ± 2.6

13.4 ± 2.4

13.3 ± 2.5

C

18.9 ± 2.4*

18.5 ± 2.2*

18.7 ± 2.3*

18.7 ± 2.8*

18.8 ± 2.1*

*P<0.05, versus all the other groups; nosignificant difference was found within each group. For explanation of thegroups and times, please see text.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Anesthesia and ICU 2°, Azienda Ospedaliera

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© Current Science Ltd 1999

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