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Crit Care. 2003 Dec;7(6):R139-44. Epub 2003 Sep 24.

Difference in end-tidal CO2 between asphyxia cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation/pulseless ventricular tachycardia cardiac arrest in the prehospital setting.

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Center of Emergency Medicine, Prehospital Unit Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia.



There has been increased interest in the use of capnometry in recent years. During cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the partial pressure of end-tidal carbon dioxide (PetCO2) correlates with cardiac output and, consequently, it has a prognostic value in CPR. This study was undertaken to compare the initial PetCO2 and the PetCO2 after 1 min during CPR in asphyxial cardiac arrest versus primary cardiac arrest.


The prospective observational study included two groups of patients: cardiac arrest due to asphyxia with initial rhythm asystole or pulseless electrical activity, and cardiac arrest due to acute myocardial infarction or malignant arrhythmias with initial rhythm ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). The PetCO2 was measured for both groups immediately after intubation and then repeatedly every minute, both for patients with and without return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC).


We analyzed 44 patients with asphyxial cardiac arrest and 141 patients with primary cardiac arrest. The first group showed no significant difference in the initial value of the PetCO2, even when we compared those with and without ROSC. There was a significant difference in the PetCO2 after 1 min of CPR between those patients with ROSC and those without ROSC. The mean value for all patients was significantly higher in the group with asphyxial arrest. In the group with VF/VT arrest there was a significant difference in the initial PetCO2 between patients without and with ROSC. In all patients with ROSC the initial PetCO2 was higher than 10 mmHg.


The initial PetCO2 is significantly higher in asphyxial arrest than in VT/VF cardiac arrest. Regarding asphyxial arrest there is also no difference in values of initial PetCO2 between patients with and without ROSC. On the contrary, there is a significant difference in values of the initial PetCO2 in the VF/VT cardiac arrest between patients with and without ROSC. This difference could prove to be useful as one of the methods in prehospital diagnostic procedures and attendance of cardiac arrest. For this reason we should always include other clinical and laboratory tests.

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