Accelerated ethanol elimination via the lungs

Sci Rep. 2020 Nov 12;10(1):19249. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-76233-9.


Ethanol poisoning is endemic the world over. Morbidity and mortality depend on blood ethanol levels which in turn depend on the balance between its rates of absorption and clearance. Clearance of ethanol is mostly at a constant rate via enzymatic metabolism. We hypothesized that isocapnic hyperpnea (IH), previously shown to be effective in acceleration of clearance of vapour anesthetics and carbon monoxide, would also accelerate the clearance of ethanol. In this proof-of-concept pilot study, five healthy male subjects were brought to a mildly elevated blood ethanol concentration (~ 0.1%) and ethanol clearance monitored during normal ventilation and IH on different days. IH increased elimination rate of ethanol in proportion to blood levels, increasing the elimination rate more than three-fold. Increased veno-arterial ethanol concentration differences during IH verified the efficacy of ethanol clearance via the lung. These data indicate that IH is a nonpharmacologic means to accelerate the elimination of ethanol by superimposing first order elimination kinetics on underlying zero order liver metabolism. Such kinetics may prove useful in treating acute severe ethanol intoxication.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Lung / physiology
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Elimination*
  • Pulmonary Ventilation


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Ethanol