A novel capnogram analysis to guide ventilation during cardiopulmonary resuscitation: clinical and experimental observations

Crit Care. 2022 Sep 23;26(1):287. doi: 10.1186/s13054-022-04156-0.


Background: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) decreases lung volume below the functional residual capacity and can generate intrathoracic airway closure. Conversely, large insufflations can induce thoracic distension and jeopardize circulation. The capnogram (CO2 signal) obtained during continuous chest compressions can reflect intrathoracic airway closure, and we hypothesized here that it can also indicate thoracic distension.

Objectives: To test whether a specific capnogram may identify thoracic distension during CPR and to assess the impact of thoracic distension on gas exchange and hemodynamics.

Methods: (1) In out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients, we identified on capnograms three patterns: intrathoracic airway closure, thoracic distension or regular pattern. An algorithm was designed to identify them automatically. (2) To link CO2 patterns with ventilation, we conducted three experiments: (i) reproducing the CO2 patterns in human cadavers, (ii) assessing the influence of tidal volume and respiratory mechanics on thoracic distension using a mechanical lung model and (iii) exploring the impact of thoracic distension patterns on different circulation parameters during CPR on a pig model.

Measurements and main results: (1) Clinical data: 202 capnograms were collected. Intrathoracic airway closure was present in 35%, thoracic distension in 22% and regular pattern in 43%. (2) Experiments: (i) Higher insufflated volumes reproduced thoracic distension CO2 patterns in 5 cadavers. (ii) In the mechanical lung model, thoracic distension patterns were associated with higher volumes and longer time constants. (iii) In six pigs during CPR with various tidal volumes, a CO2 pattern of thoracic distension, but not tidal volume per se, was associated with a significant decrease in blood pressure and cerebral perfusion.

Conclusions: During CPR, capnograms reflecting intrathoracic airway closure, thoracic distension or regular pattern can be identified. In the animal experiment, a thoracic distension pattern on the capnogram is associated with a negative impact of ventilation on blood pressure and cerebral perfusion during CPR, not predicted by tidal volume per se.

Keywords: CO2 pattern; Cardiac arrest; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Intrathoracic airway closure; Thoracic distension.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadaver
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest*
  • Swine


  • Carbon Dioxide