Effects of Hypercapnia and Hypercapnic Acidosis on Hospital Mortality in Mechanically Ventilated Patients*

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Abstract

Objectives:

Lung-protective ventilation is used to prevent further lung injury in patients on invasive mechanical ventilation. However, lung-protective ventilation can cause hypercapnia and hypercapnic acidosis. There are no large clinical studies evaluating the effects of hypercapnia and hypercapnic acidosis in patients requiring mechanical ventilation.

Design:

Multicenter, binational, retrospective study aimed to assess the impact of compensated hypercapnia and hypercapnic acidosis in patients receiving mechanical ventilation.

Settings:

Data were extracted from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Centre for Outcome and Resource Evaluation Adult Patient Database over a 14-year period where 171 ICUs contributed deidentified data.

Patients:

Patients were classified into three groups based on a combination of pH and carbon dioxide levels (normocapnia and normal pH, compensated hypercapnia [normal pH with elevated carbon dioxide], and hypercapnic acidosis) during the first 24 hours of ICU stay. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify the independent association of hypercapnia and hypercapnic acidosis with hospital mortality.

Interventions:

Nil.

Measurements and Main Results:

A total of 252,812 patients (normocapnia and normal pH, 110,104; compensated hypercapnia, 20,463; and hypercapnic acidosis, 122,245) were included in analysis. Patients with compensated hypercapnia and hypercapnic acidosis had higher Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III scores (49.2 vs 53.2 vs 68.6; p < 0.01). The mortality was higher in hypercapnic acidosis patients when compared with other groups, with the lowest mortality in patients with normocapnia and normal pH. After adjusting for severity of illness, the adjusted odds ratio for hospital mortality was higher in hypercapnic acidosis patients (odds ratio, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.62–1.88) and compensated hypercapnia (odds ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.10–1.26) when compared with patients with normocapnia and normal pH (p < 0.001). In patients with hypercapnic acidosis, the mortality increased with increasing PCO2 until 65 mm Hg after which the mortality plateaued.

Conclusions:

Hypercapnic acidosis during the first 24 hours of intensive care admission is more strongly associated with increased hospital mortality than compensated hypercapnia or normocapnia.

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