Background: Hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) is a common disorder which is difficult to diagnose because of somatic symptoms and its episodic nature. In previous studies respiratory alkalosis in arterial blood was often found during orthostatic tests in patients with HVS. The purpose of this study was to assess these orthostatic changes by non-invasive pulmonary gas exchange measurements and to evaluate whether these responses discriminate patients with HVS from healthy subjects.
Methods: Respiratory gases were collected with a face mask and pulmonary gas exchange was measured after 10 minutes at rest and after eight minutes standing upright in 16 patients with HVS and 13 healthy control subjects. In patients with HVS arterial blood samples were also drawn at rest and in the standing position.
Results: At rest the variables of respiratory gas exchange did not differ significantly between the groups. As a response to standing, minute ventilation increased in both study groups but significantly more in the patients with HVS (mean difference 5.4 l/min (95% CI 1.1 to 9.6)). The changes in end tidal CO(2) fraction (FETCO(2)) and in ventilatory equivalents for oxygen (VE/VO(2)) and for CO(2) (VE/VCO(2)) during the orthostatic test were also significantly larger in patients with HVS than in healthy controls. During standing FETCO(2) was significantly lower (mean difference -1.1 kPa; 95% CI -1.5 to -0.6) and VE/VO(2) (mean difference 18.4; 95% CI 7.7 to 29.0) and VE/VCO(2) (mean difference 11.7; 95% CI 4.8 to 18.6) were significantly higher in HVS patients than in healthy controls. By using the cut off level of 4% for FETCO(2) the sensitivity and specificity of the test to discriminate HVS were 87% and 77%, respectively, and by using the cut off level of 37 for VE/VO(2) they were 93% and 100%, respectively. In the HVS patients arterial PCO(2) and FETCO(2) were closely correlated during the orthostatic test (r = 0.93, p<0.0001).
Conclusions: As a response to change in body position from supine to standing, patients with HVS have an accentuated increase in ventilation which distinguishes them from healthy subjects. These findings suggest that non-invasive measurements of pulmonary gas exchange during orthostatic tests are useful in the clinical evaluation of patients with hyperventilation disorders.