Effects of the transcutaneous electrode temperature on the accuracy of transcutaneous carbon dioxide tension

Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2011 Nov;71(7):548-52. doi: 10.3109/00365513.2011.590601. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Aim: The harmful effect of hypocapnia on the neonatal brain emphasizes the importance of monitoring arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2). Transcutaneous monitoring of carbon dioxide (tcPCO2) reduces the need for arterial blood sampling. Drawbacks are high electrode temperature causing risks of skin burning. The aim was to determine the accuracy and precision of tcPCO2 at reduced electrode temperature.

Methods: Forty newborns (GA 24.9-41.7) were included. Two tc-monitors were applied (TCM4, Radiometer, Copenhagen). Arterial blood gas sampling and monitoring of tcPCO2-level at different electrode temperatures was done simultaneously (39°C, 40°C, 41°C, 42°C, 44°C). Difference of PaCO2 - tcPCO2 was expressed as a percentage of the mean.

Results: Mean PaCO2 was 5.8kPa [3,2; 7.9]. Bias (PaCO2 - tcPCO2) increased from 5% at 44°C to 17% at 39°C, but did not differ significantly between 41°C and 40°C. The precision of the tcPCO2 at each temperature ranged from +7-10%. After correction for the temperature-dependent overreading, we found increasing PaCO2 - tcPCO2 difference with increasing PaCO2, approx. 2% pr. kPa increase of CO(2). Only mild transient erythema was observed.

Conclusion: A lower electrode temperature in tcPCO2-monitoring increases systematic overreading of the tc-electrode. However, in very preterm babies, monitoring at 40°C or 41°C is possible provided a bias correction of 12-15% is applied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / instrumentation
  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / methods*
  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / standards
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Electrodes / standards
  • Humans
  • Hypocapnia / prevention & control*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Temperature


  • Carbon Dioxide