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Critical Care

Open Access

Effect of acute hyperventilation on the venous-arterial PCO2 difference

Critical Care201216:408

https://doi.org/10.1186/cc11139

Published: 30 January 2012

I read with great interest the letter by Morel and colleagues [1] in the previous issue of Critical Care. The letter suggested that acute changes in the arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2) can affect the venous-arterial difference in carbon dioxide tension (ΔCO2). In a study by the authors, 10 ventilated and hemodynamically stable patients were included after elective cardiac surgery. Hypocapnia was induced by increasing the respiratory rate. The authors found that a decrease of PaCO2 was associated with a significant increase in ΔCO2. This was explained by the fact that acute hypocapnia resulted in systemic vasoconstriction, thus decreasing the elimination of the total CO2 produced by the peripheral tissues and increasing the gap. However, as all patients were monitored with a pulmonary artery catheter (PAC), the authors should have shown whether there was any increase in systemic vascular resistance to support their hypothesis. Furthermore, there is another possible explanation of the ΔCO2 increase induced by the decrease in PaCO2. Indeed, acute respiratory alkalosis has been shown to increase systemic oxygen consumption and CO2 production [2, 3]. Thus, for a given venous blood flow, the increase of tissue CO2 production should increase the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2) gap.

On the other hand, it is unclear why the authors have used the central venous sample to calculate ΔCO2 instead of using the mixed venous sample (PAC), which is the gold standard. If a PAC is in place, the clinical utility of an alternative method of measurement is diminished even though the mixed and central PCO2 difference showed good agreement [4]. Nevertheless, I agree that acute hyperventilation could be a potential limitation of the clinical application of the ΔCO2.

Authors' response

Jerome Morel and Laurent Gergele

We thank Mallat for his comments. Indeed, we hypothesized that hypocapnia resulted in microcirculatory vasoconstriction, thus decreasing the elimination of CO2 produced by the peripheral tissues and increasing the venous-arterial CO2 gradient [1]. Only specific microcirculatory monitoring can answer this question. Measurement of systemic vascular resistance could not help as microcirculation and systemic circulation are relatively dissociated, particularly when systemic hemodynamics are within normal ranges (as was the case in our study) [5].

As mentioned, it has been shown that central venous CO2 and mixed venous CO2 were in good agreement for the calculation of venous-arterial CO2 gradient, as was the case in our study (data not shown). We chose to present central venous data because nowadays patients are more frequently monitored with a central venous catheter than a PAC. However, Mallat raised an interesting hypothesis concerning the effects of acute respiratory alkalosis on systemic oxygen consumption and CO2 production, which could be an explanation of our results [2].

Abbreviations

ΔCO2

venous-arterial difference in carbon dioxide tension

CO2

carbon dioxide

PAC: 

pulmonary artery catheter

PaCO2

arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide

PCO2

partial pressure of carbon dioxide.

Declarations

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Intensive Care Unit, Centre Hospitalier du Dr. Schaffner, Service de Réanimation polyvalente, France

References

  1. Morel J, Gergele L, Verveche D, Costes F, Auboyer C, Molliex S: Do fluctuations of PaCO 2 impact on the venous-arterial carbon dioxide gradient? Crit Care 2011, 15: 456. 10.1186/cc10528PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Khambatta HJ, Sullivan SF: Effects of respiratory alkalosis on oxygen consumption and oxygenation. Anesthesiology 1973, 38: 53-58. 10.1097/00000542-197301000-00014View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Cain SM: Increased oxygen uptake with passive hyperventilation of dogs. J Appl Physiol 1970, 28: 4-7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cuschieri J, Rivers EP, Donnino MW, Katilius M, Jacobsen G, Nguyen HB, Pamukov N, Horst HM: Central venous-arterial carbon dioxide difference as an indicator of cardiac index. Intensive Care Med 2005, 31: 818-822. 10.1007/s00134-005-2602-8View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. De Backer D, Ortiz JA, Salgado D: Coupling microcirculation to systemic hemodynamics. Curr Opin Crit Care 2010, 16: 250-254. 10.1097/MCC.0b013e3283383621View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© BioMed Central Ltd 2012

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