Acid-base status of critically ill patients with acute renal failure: analysis based on Stewart-Figge methodology

Jens Rocktaeschel, Hiroshi Morimatsu, Shigehiko Uchino, Donna Goldsmith, Stephanie Poustie, David Story, Geoffrey Gutteridge, Rinaldo Bellomo
Critical Care: the Official Journal of the Critical Care Forum 2003, 7 (4): R60

INTRODUCTION: The aim of the present study is to understand the nature of acid-base disorders in critically ill patients with acute renal failure (ARF) using the biophysical principles described by Stewart and Figge. A retrospective controlled study was carried out in the intensive care unit of a tertiary hospital.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty patients with ARF, 40 patients matched for Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score (matched control group), and 60 consecutive critically ill patients without ARF (intensive care unit control group) participated. The study involved the retrieval of biochemical data from computerized records, quantitative biophysical analysis using the Stewart-Figge methodology, and statistical comparison between the three groups. We measured serum sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate, ionized calcium, albumin, lactate and arterial blood gases.

RESULTS: Intensive care unit patients with ARF had a mild acidemia (mean pH 7.30 +/- 0.13) secondary to metabolic acidosis with a mean base excess of -7.5 +/- 7.2 mEq/l. However, one-half of these patients had a normal anion gap. Quantitative acid-base assessment (Stewart-Figge methodology) revealed unique multiple metabolic acid-base processes compared with controls, which contributed to the overall acidosis. The processes included the acidifying effect of high levels of unmeasured anions (13.4 +/- 5.5 mEq/l) and hyperphosphatemia (2.08 +/- 0.92 mEq/l), and the alkalinizing effect of hypoalbuminemia (22.6 +/- 6.3 g/l).

CONCLUSIONS: The typical acid-base picture of ARF of critical illness is metabolic acidosis. This acidosis is the result of the balance between the acidifying effect of increased unmeasured anions and hyperphosphatemia and the lesser alkalinizing effect of hypoalbuminemia.

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