Spontaneous hyperventilation and brain tissue hypoxia in patients with severe brain injury

Emmanuel Carrera, J Michael Schmidt, Luis Fernandez, Pedro Kurtz, Maxwell Merkow, Morgan Stuart, Kiwon Lee, Jan Claassen, E Sander Connolly, Stephan A Mayer, Neeraj Badjatia
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 2010, 81 (7): 793-7

BACKGROUND: Hyperventilation has been shown to be associated with cerebral vasoconstriction and increased risk of infarction. Our aim was to determine whether spontaneous reduction in end-tidal CO(2) (EtCO(2)) was associated with an increased in brain tissue hypoxia (BTH).

METHOD: We studied 21 consecutive patients (mean age 50+/-16 years; 15 women) undergoing continuous monitoring for brain tissue oxygenation (PbtO(2)), intracranial pressure (ICP), cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) and EtCO(2); mean values were recorded hourly BTH was defined as brain tissue oxygen tension (PbtO(2)) <15 mm Hg.

RESULTS: Diagnoses included subarachnoid haemorrhage (67%), intracranial haemorrhage (24%) and traumatic brain injury (10%). Overall, BTH occurred during 22.5% of the study period (490/2179 hourly data). The frequency of BTH increased progressively from 15.7% in patients with normal EtCO(2) (35-44 mm Hg) to 33.9% in patients with EtCO(2)<25 mm Hg (p<0.001). The mean tidal volume and minute ventilation were 7+/-2 ml/kg and 9+/-2 1/min, respectively. Hypocapnia was associated with higher measured-than-set respiratory rates and maximal minute ventilation values, suggestive of spontaneous hyperventilation. Using a generalised estimated equation (GEE) and after adjustment for GCS, ICP and core temperature, the variables independently associated with BTH events were EtCO(2) (OR: 0.94; 95% CI 0.90 to 0.97; p<0.001) and CPP (OR: 0.98; 95% CI 0.97 to 0.99; p=0.004).

CONCLUSION: The risk of brain tissue hypoxia in critically brain-injured patients increases when EtCO(2) values are reduced. Unintentional spontaneous hyperventilation may be a common and under-recognised cause of brain tissue hypoxia after severe brain injury.

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