Volume 2 Supplement 1

18th International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine

Open Access

Regional variation in gastric intramucosal pCO2 may confound tonometric measurement: an evaluation using two tonometers and continuously recirculating gas tonometry

  • PC Roberts1,
  • NH Boyle1,
  • AC Barber1,
  • B Ng1,
  • A McLuckie1 and
  • RJ Beale1
Critical Care19982(Suppl 1):P135


Published: 1 March 1998


Gastric tonometry is used to assess splanchnic perfusion in critically ill patients, and relies on measurement of the pCO2 in the tonometer balloon. Saline is most frequently used as the CO2 vehicle, but phosphate-buffered saline and continuously recirculating gas tonometry (CRGT) have been used in an attempt to improve the accuracy of the tonometric pCO2 measurements. Comparisons between these methods using two tonometers placed together have been made in vitro and in vivo (animal and human), but the assumption that two closely situated tonometer balloons containing the same vehicle produce the same pCO2 reading has not been tested, which questions the validity of these comparisons. Using a single technique (CRGT) we investigated the reproducibility of paired tonometric measurements and their precision both in the laboratory and in patients.


The study comprised in vitro and in vivo components. An equilibration chamber containing 0.9% saline was kept at 37°C and a constant pCO2 of either 4.5% or 9.5%, monitored using a Paratrend 7 probe (Biomedical Sensors, High Wycombe, UK). Two Tonocap monitors (Datex, Helsinki, Finland) were calibrated and connected to two tonometers (Tonometric Division, Instrumentarium Division Helsinki, Finland) within the chamber and, after a 30 min equilibration period, 24 paired pCO2 measurements were recorded at 10 min intervals at each CO2 concentration. 10 intubated, ventilated and sedated critically ill patients were then studied, using two tonometers positioned in the stomach and connected to the two tonocap monitors. After a 30 min equilibration period 12 paired pCO2 measurements were recorded per individual at 10 min intervals.


During the in vitro study the pCO2 of the saline was maintained at two steady means of 4.52 (4.48–4.54) and 9.47 (9.37–9.5) kPa. There was excellent agreement between tonometers, with a mean bias of 0.16 kPa (95% confidence interval -0.09 to 0.058), and limits of agreement -0.51 to 0.47 kPa. Agreement between each tonometer and Paratrend pCO2 measurements was also good with biases of 0.110 and 0.103 kPa (95% confidence intervals -0.210 to -0.028 and -0.194 to -0.012 kPa) and limits of agreement -0.54 to 0.23 and -0.52 to 0.32 kPa. Agreement between tonometers in vivo was poor. Although the mean bias was 0.132 kPa (95% confidence interval 0.286 to 0.418 kPa), the limits of agreement were -2.83 to 3.09 kPa.


The limits of agreement between two tonometers in the stomachs of critically ill patients using CRGT were unacceptably wide. This may be due to inherent flaws in the technique in vivo, or to regional differences in intraluminal pCO2.

Authors’ Affiliations

Departments of Intensive Care and Surgery, Guy's Hospital


© Current Science Ltd 1998