Study objective: The inotropic, lusitropic, and electrophysiologic effects of acute hypercapnia in humans are not known. Although the effects of hypercapnia on the systemic circulation have been well documented, there is still some debate as to whether hypercapnia causes true pulmonary vasoconstriction in vivo. We have therefore evaluated the effects of acute hypercapnia on these cardiac indices and the interaction of hypercapnia with the systemic and pulmonary vascular beds in humans.
Participants and interventions: Eight healthy male volunteers were studied using Doppler echocardiography. After resting for at least 30 min to achieve baseline hemodynamic parameters (T(0)), they were rendered hypercapnic to achieve an end-tidal carbon dioxide (CO2) of 7 kPa for 30 min by breathing a variable mixture of CO2/air (T1). They were restudied after 30 min recovery breathing air (T2). Hemodynamic, diastolic, and systolic flow parameters, QT dispersion (maximum-minimum QT interval measured in a 12-lead ECG), and venous blood samples for plasma renin activity (PRA), angiotensin II (ANG II), and aldosterone (ALDO) were measured at each time point.
Results: Hypercapnia compared with placebo significantly increased mean pulmonary artery pressure 14 +/- 1 vs 9 +/- 1 mm Hg and pulmonary vascular resistance 171 +/- 17 vs 129 +/- 17 dyne.s.cm-5, respectively. Heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output, and mean arterial BP were increased by hypercapnia. Indexes of systolic function, namely peak aortic velocity and aortic mean and peak acceleration, were unaffected by hypercapnia. Similarly, hypercapnia had no effect on lusitropic indexes reflected by its lack of effect on isovolumic relaxation time, mitral E-wave deceleration time, and mitral E/A wave ratio. Hypercapnia was found to significantly increase both QTc interval and QT dispersion: 428 +/- 8 vs 411 +/- 3 ms and 48 +/- 2 vs 33 +/- 4 ms, respectively. There was no significant effect of hypercapnia on PRA, ANG II, or ALDO.
Conclusion: Thus, acute hypercapnia appears to have no adverse inotropic or lusitropic effects on cardiac function, although repolarization abnormalities, reflected by an increase in QT dispersion, and its effects on pulmonary vasoconstriction may have important sequelae in man.