Effects of hypercapnia in acute respiratory distress syndrome

Nicolás Nin, Martín Angulo, Arturo Briva


In patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) hypercapnia is a marker of poor prognosis, however there is controversial information regarding the effect of hypercapnia on outcomes. Recently two studies in a large population of mechanical ventilation patients showed higher mortality associated independently to hypercapnia. Key roles responsible for the poor clinical outcomes observed in critically ill patients exposed to hypercapnia are not well known, two possible mechanisms involved are the effect of CO2 on the muscle and the alveolar epithelium. Hypercapnia frequently coexists with muscle atrophy and dysfunction, moreover patients surviving ARDS present reduced muscle strength and decreased physical quality of life. One of the possible mechanisms responsible for these abnormalities could be the effects of hypercapnia during the course of ARDS. More over controversy persists about the hypercapnia role in the alveolar space, in the last years there is abundant experimental information on its deleterious effects on essential functions of the alveolar epithelium.