Safety and efficacy of intravenous Carbicarb® in patients undergoing surgery: Comparison with sodium bicarbonate in the treatment of mild metabolic acidosis

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To compare the safety and efficacy of intravenous Carbicarb® with intravenous sodium bicarbonate in well-oxygenated patients who developed metabolic acidosis while undergoing major surgery. Carbicarb is an equimolar solution of sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). It does not undergo significant breakdown to CO2 and H2O, nor does it increase CO2, concentrations to the same extent as does pure sodium bicarbonate. Because of these characteristics, Carbicarb may be a more suitable agent than bicarbonate in the treatment of metabolic acidosis.


Prospective, double-blind, randomized, multicenter trial.


Veterans Affairs Medical Center (a teaching hospital of the University of California, San Francisco), and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, MA.


We prospectively studied 36 patients who underwent either cardiac surgery or major noncardiac surgery and developed intraoperative metabolic acidosis (pH <7.35 and whose serum bicarbonate concentration decreased by >3 mmol).


Patients were randomly assigned to receive either sodium bicarbonate (1 mEq sodium/mL, n = 18) or 1 mol Carbicarb (1 mEq sodium/mL, n = 18) administered by intravenous bolus over a 30-sec period.

Measurements and Main Results:

For Carbicarb-treated patients, the mean arterial pH increased from 7.31 ± 0.008 (baseline) to 7.36 ± 0.009 10 mins after treatment; for the sodium bicarbonate-treated patients, the mean pH increased from 7.31 ± 0.006 to 7.37 ± 0.01. The increases in pH were statistically significant for both groups (p= .0001). There was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in the number of repetitions of initial dose that was required to correct acidosis. Hemodynamic variables remained unchanged in both treatment groups during the study period, with the exception of the mean cardiac output which increased from 6.1 ± 0.4 (baseline) to 6.9 ± 1.4 L/min (60 mins after treatment) in a subset of Carbicarb-treated patients and decreased from 6.7 ± 1.3 to 6.0 ± 1.2 L/min in a subset of sodium bicarbonate-treated patients,p=.048 (between groups); and the mean pulmonary artery occlusion pressure decreased from 19 ± 2 mm Hg (baseline) to 8 ± 3 mm Hg (45 mins after treatment) in the Carbicarb-treated patients, and decreased from 18 ± 2 to 13 ± 4 mm Hg in the sodium bicarbonate-treated patients,p= .012 (between groups). Systemic utilization of lactate increased from 0.3 ± 1.0 mmol/min (baseline) to 5.6 ± 4.3 mmol/min (45 mins after treatment) in Carbicarb-treated patients, and increased from 1.0 ± 0.6 mmol/min (baseline) to 1.5 ± 1.3 mmol/min in the sodium bicarbonate-treated patients,p= .033 (between groups). The administration of Carbicarb was safe. No patients were discontinued from the study because of adverse events.


Carbicarb corrects metabolic acidosis as well as sodium bicarbonate. However, the potential therapeutic advantage of Carbicarb remains to be determined, especially in patients with more severe metabolic acidosis. (Crit Care Med 1994; 22:1540–1549)

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