Background: Carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels are obtained when there is suspicion for carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Serial COHb levels are sometimes obtained despite the well-established half-life of COHb with oxygen supplementation. We sought to evaluate the trends and characteristics associated with obtaining serial carboxyhemoglobin levels.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed at an academic medical center for all inpatient and emergency department cases with either single COHb or serial COHb levels from 1 April 2010 through 31 March 2015. Data collected included age, gender, pregnancy status, smoking history, encounter month, admission status, oxygen administration, fire or burn history, vital signs, presenting symptoms, hyperbaric oxygen (HBO2) therapy use, initial pH, troponin, lactate, and COHb levels. The time and change in values between serial levels were also obtained.
Results: 624 cases were identified, with 106 (17%) having multiple carboxyhemoglobin levels. A mean of 2.6 (range 2 - 9) serial COHb levels were obtained. The average initial COHb was 8.9%. Subsequent serial levels were obtained on average at 353, 663 and 1,095 minutes and averaged 2.8%, 1.8% and 1.1% respectively. Serial COHb levels were obtained more commonly in burn patients, those admitted to the ICU and those who had HBO2 therapy. Four patients had an increase in COHb level on serial testing. The largest increase of these was from 2.0% to 3.9%.
Conclusion: Serial COHb levels were not infrequent in this study. No clinically significant increase in COHb was identified by serial testing. Further studies should examine the clinical utility of such practices.
Keywords: carbon monoxide; carboxyhemoglobin; hyperbaric oxygen therapy; research.
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