Helium-oxygen therapy for pediatric acute severe asthma requiring mechanical ventilation

Shamel A Abd-Allah, Mark S Rogers, Michael Terry, Matthew Gross, Ronald M Perkin
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 2003, 4 (3): 353-7

OBJECTIVE: To illustrate the use of helium-oxygen gas mixtures as therapy for pediatric patients with acute severe asthma requiring conventional mechanical ventilation.

DESIGN: Retrospective review.

SETTING: Tertiary care children's teaching hospital.

PATIENTS: All mechanically ventilated patients with severe asthma admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit from August 1994 to October 2000.

INTERVENTIONS: Within 24 hrs of intubation or admission, patients were stabilized on volume ventilation, bronchodilator therapy, corticosteroids, and antibiotics when indicated. Hypercapnia was permitted while maintaining arterial blood gas pH > or =7.25. A helium-oxygen gas mixture then was begun with helium flow set at 5-7 L/min, and oxygen flow was titrated to maintain desired oxygen saturation. Only sedated, chemically paralyzed patients with adequate pre-helium-oxygen and post-helium-oxygen measurements were statistically analyzed.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-eight mechanically ventilated patients with severe asthma placed on helium-oxygen gas mixtures were identified who met study entry criteria. Mean patient age was 8.8 yrs (range, 1.1-14.6). Before helium-oxygen therapy began, mean peak inspiratory pressure was 40.5 +/- 4.2 cm H(2)O, mean arterial blood gas pH was 7.26 +/- 0.05, and mean CO(2) partial pressure was 58.2 +/- 8.5 torr. After patients were placed on helium-oxygen therapy, there was a significant decrease in mean peak inspiratory pressure to 35.3 +/- 3.0 cm H(2)O. Mean pH increased significantly to 7.32 +/- 0.06, and mean partial pressure CO(2) decreased significantly to 50.5 +/- 7.4 torr. Initial mean inspired helium was 57 +/- 4% (range, 32-74). Mechanical ventilation days ranged from 1 to 23 days (mean, 5.0). Hospital stay ranged from 4 to 29 days (mean, 10.1), with an average pediatric intensive care unit stay of 6.9 days (range, 2-24). There were two incidences of pneumothorax.

CONCLUSIONS: In the pediatric patient with severe asthma requiring conventional mechanical ventilation, helium-oxygen administration appears to be a safe therapy and may assist in lowering peak inspiratory pressure and improving blood gas pH and partial pressure CO(2).

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