Noninvasive determination of cardiac output using single breath CO2 analysis

Crit Care Med. 1996 Oct;24(10):1701-5. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199610000-00017.


Objective: To examine the utility of single breath CO2 analysis as a noninvasive measure of cardiac output.

Setting: An animal laboratory in a university-affiliated medical center.

Design: A prospective, animal cohort study comparing 21 parameters derived from single breath CO2 analysis with cardiac output determined by an ultrasonic flow probe.

Subjects: Six healthy adult sheep.

Methods: The single breath CO2 analysis station consists of a mainstream capnometer, a variable orifice pneumotachometer, a signal processor, and computer software with capability for both on- and off-line data analysis. Twenty-one derived components of the CO2 expirogram were evaluated as predictors of cardiac output. Cardiac output was manipulated by successive injections of a hydraulic constrictor placed around the inferior vena cava.

Measurements and main results: Thirty-four measurements of cardiac output were available for comparison with derived variables from the CO2 expirogram. Stepwise linear regression identified two variables that were most predictive of cardiac output: a) the angle between the slope lines for phase II and III of the CO2 expirogram divided by the volume of CO2 per breath (angle/mL CO2); and b) the slope of phase II. The multivariate equation was highly statistically significant and explained 94% of the variance (adjusted r2 = .94, p < .0001). The bias and precision of the calculated cardiac output were .00 and .23, respectively. The mean percent difference for the cardiac output estimate derived from the single breath CO2 analysis station was 0.36%.

Conclusions: Our data indicate that analysis of the CO2 expirogram can yield accurate information about the cardiovascular system. Specifically, two variables derived from a plot of expired CO2 concentration vs. expired volume predict changes in cardiac output in healthy adult sheep with an adjusted coefficient of determination of .94. Prospective application of this technology in the setting of lung injury and rapidly changing physiology will be essential in determining the clinical usefulness of the technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breath Tests*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis*
  • Cardiac Output*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sheep


  • Carbon Dioxide