Capnogram slope and ventilation dead space parameters: comparison of mainstream and sidestream techniques

Br J Anaesth. 2016 Jul;117(1):109-17. doi: 10.1093/bja/aew127.


Background: Capnography may provide useful non-invasive bedside information concerning heterogeneity in lung ventilation, ventilation-perfusion mismatching and metabolic status. Although the capnogram may be recorded by mainstream and sidestream techniques, the capnogram indices furnished by these approaches have not previously been compared systematically.

Methods: Simultaneous mainstream and sidestream time and volumetric capnography was performed in anaesthetized, mechanically ventilated patients undergoing elective heart surgery. Time capnography was used to assess the phase II (SII,T) and III slopes (SIII,T). The volumetric method was applied to estimate phase II (SII,V) and III slopes (SIII,V), together with the dead space values according to the Fowler (VDF), Bohr (VDB), and Enghoff (VDE) methods and the volume of CO2 eliminated per breath ([Formula: see text]). The partial pressure of end-tidal CO2 ([Formula: see text]) was registered.

Results: Excellent correlation and good agreement were observed in SIII,T measured by the mainstream and sidestream techniques [ratio=1.05 (sem 0.16), R(2)=0.92, P<0.0001]. Although the sidestream technique significantly underestimated [Formula: see text] and overestimated SIII,V [1.32 (0.28), R(2)=0.93, P<0.0001], VDF, VDB, and VDE, the agreement between the mainstream and sidestream techniques in the difference between VDE and VDB, reflecting the intrapulmonary shunt, was excellent [0.97 (0.004), R(2)=0.92, P<0.0001]. The [Formula: see text] exhibited good correlation and mild differences between the mainstream and sidestream approaches [0.025 (0.005) kPa].

Conclusions: Sidestream capnography provides adequate quantitative bedside information about uneven alveolar emptying and ventilation-perfusion mismatching, because it allows reliable assessments of the phase III slope, [Formula: see text] and intrapulmonary shunt. Reliable measurement of volumetric parameters (phase II slope, dead spaces, and eliminated CO2 volumes) requires the application of a mainstream device.

Keywords: capnography; carbon dioxide; intraoperative monitoring; mechanical ventilation; ventilation-perfusion ratio.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Capnography*
  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Dead Space
  • Tidal Volume


  • Carbon Dioxide