Skip to main content


You are viewing the new article page. Let us know what you think. Return to old version

Poster presentation | Open | Published:

Prognostic value of the central venous-to-arterial carbon dioxide difference for postoperative complications in high-risk surgical patients


Tissue hypoperfusion is a key trigger of postoperative organ dysfunction. Our objective was to evaluate the prognostic value of the central venous-to-arterial carbon dioxide difference (PCO2) gap, a global index of tissue perfusion, in patients after major abdominal surgery.


A prospective and observational study of 115 patients admitted to the ICU following major abdominal surgery. In all patients, measurements of the PCO2 gap, central venous oxygen saturation (ScvO2), serum lactate and conventional hemodynamic and biological parameters were performed on admission (H0), and over 6 hours until 12 hours after admission. Postoperative complications, the duration of mechanical ventilation, and the hospital length of stay and mortality up to 28 days were characterized using standard definitions. Area under the ROC curves for PCO2 gap, ScvO2 and lactate were calculated and compared to discriminate between patients with and without complications.


A total of 78 patients developed at least one complication including 57 (50%) patients with postoperative septic complications. At T0 there was no significant difference in demographic and hemodynamic data, type and duration of surgical procedures between patients with and without complications. There were nine deaths (7.8%). There was a significant difference for PCO2 gap (8.1 ± 3.2 mmHg vs. 5.5 ± 2.8 mmHg, P < 0.001), ScvO2 (76.5 ± 6.4% vs. 78.9 ± 5.8%) and serum lactate (P < 0.001) between patients with and without complications. After multivariate analysis, PCO2 gap and lactate level, but not ScvO2, were associated with postoperative complications (P < 0.001 and P = 0.018, respectively). Areas under the ROC curves were 0.66 (95% CI = 0.55 to 0.76) for lactate, 0.57 (95% CI = 0.46 to 0.68) for ScvO2 and 0.85 (95% CI = 0.77 to 0.93) for PCO2 gap, with 6 mmHg as the best threshold value for discriminating patients with and without complications. Patients with a PCO2 gap >6 mmHg (68%) had a longer duration of mechanical ventilation (4.1 ± 3.4 days vs. 5.6 ± 3.8 days, P = 0.047), and a longer hospital stay. Patients who died all had an enlarged PCO2 gap (P = 0.056).


Both low and supranormal values of ScvO2 were found to be warning signals of impaired tissue oxygenation. A PCO2 gap larger than 6 mmHg could be a useful prognostic factor to identify patients at risk of postoperative complications following major abdominal surgery, especially when ScvO2 exceeds 75%.

Author information

Correspondence to E Robin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article


  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Postoperative Complication
  • Serum Lactate
  • Septic Complication
  • Longe Hospital Stay