Hyperventilation in neurological patients: from physiology to outcome evidence.


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Hyperventilation is commonly used in neurological patients to decrease elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) or relax a tense brain. However, the potentially deleterious effects of hyperventilation may limit its clinical application. The aim of this review is to summarize the physiological and outcome evidence related to hyperventilation in neurological patients.

RECENT FINDINGS: Physiologically, hyperventilation may adversely decrease cerebral blood flow (CBF) and the match between the cerebral metabolic rate and CBF. In patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), prolonged prophylactic hyperventilation with arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2) less than 25 mmHg or during the first 24 h after injury is not recommended. Most patients (>90%) with an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage undergo hyperventilation (PaCO2 <35 mmHg); however, whether hyperventilation is associated with poor outcomes in this patient population is controversial. Hyperventilation is effective for brain relaxation during craniotomy; however, this practice is not based on robust outcome evidence.

SUMMARY: Although hyperventilation is commonly applied in patients with TBI or intracranial hemorrhage or in those undergoing craniotomy, its effects on patient outcomes have not been proven by quality research. Hyperventilation should be used as a temporary measure when treating elevated ICP or to relax a tense brain. Outcome research is needed to better guide the clinical use of hyperventilation in neurological patients.**

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