Background: Anemia is associated with morbidity and mortality and frequently leads to transfusion of erythrocytes. The authors sought to directly compare the effect of high inspired oxygen fraction versus transfusion of erythrocytes on the anemia-induced increased heart rate (HR) in humans undergoing experimental acute isovolemic anemia.
Methods: The authors combined HR data from healthy subjects undergoing experimental isovolemic anemia in seven studies performed by the group. HR changes associated with breathing 100% oxygen by nonrebreathing facemask versus transfusion of erythrocytes at their nadir hemoglobin concentration of 5 g/dl were examined. Data were analyzed using a mixed-effects model.
Results: HR had an inverse linear relationship to hemoglobin concentration with a mean increase of 3.9 beats per min per gram of hemoglobin (beats/min/g hemoglobin) decrease (95% CI, 3.7-4.1 beats/min/g hemoglobin), P < 0.0001. Return of autologous erythrocytes significantly decreased HR by 5.3 beats/min/g hemoglobin (95% CI, 3.8-6.8 beats/min/g hemoglobin) increase, P < 0.0001. HR at nadir hemoglobin of 5.6 g/dl (95% CI, 5.5-5.7 g/dl) when breathing air (91.4 beats/min; 95% CI, 87.6-95.2 beats/min) was reduced by breathing 100% oxygen (83.0 beats/min; 95% CI, 79.0-87.0 beats/min), P < 0.0001. The HR at hemoglobin 5.6 g/dl when breathing oxygen was equivalent to the HR at hemoglobin 8.9 g/dl when breathing air.
Conclusions: High arterial oxygen partial pressure reverses the heart rate response to anemia, probably because of its usability rather than its effect on total oxygen content. The benefit of high arterial oxygen partial pressure has significant potential clinical implications for the acute treatment of anemia and results of transfusion trials.