Hypoxic hazards of traditional paper bag rebreathing in hyperventilating patients.
Ann Emerg Med. 1989 Jun;18(6):622-8.

Callaham M.

Division of Emergency Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

It is traditional practice to treat acute hyperventilation (thought to be due to anxiety) by having patients rebreathe into a brown paper bag. The author reports three cases in which this treatment, erroneously applied to patients who were hypoxemic or had myocardial ischemia, resulted in death. This clinical experience motivated a study of the effects of paper bag rebreathing in normal volunteers. Subjects deliberately hyperventilated to an average end-tidal CO2 concentration of 21.6 (SD, 3.2) mm Hg and then continued to hyperventilate into a no. 4 Kraft brown paper bag containing the calibrated sensors for a Hewlett-Packard 47210A capnograph and a Teledyne TED 60J digital oxygen monitor. Fourteen men and six women with an average age of 36 years (SD, 6.1) were tested. Results are reported as mm Hg. After 30 seconds of rebreathing, mean change in O2 from room air was -15.9 (SD, 4.6) and mean CO2 was 38.7 (SD, 6.2); at 60 seconds, -20.5 (6.0) and 40.2 (6.4); at 90 seconds -22 (6.8) and 40.5 (6.4); at 120 seconds -23.6 (6.8) and 40.7 (6.5); at 150 seconds -25.1 (1.2) and 41 (7.3); and at 180 seconds -26.6 (8.4) and 41.3 (7.5). A few subjects achieved CO2 levels as high as 50, but many never reached 40. The mean maximal drop in O2 was 26 (8.8); seven subjects had drops in oxygen of 26 mm Hg at three minutes, four had drops of 34 mm Hg, and one had a drop of 42 mm Hg.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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