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When Does Apparatus Dead Space Matter for the Pediatric Patient?

Pearsall, Matthew F. MD; Feldman, Jeffrey M. MD, MSE

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000148
Technology, Computing, and Simulation: Technical Communication

Physiologic dead space is defined as the volume of the lung where gas exchange does not occur. Apparatus dead space increases dead space volume, causing either increased PaCO2 or the need to increase minute ventilation to maintain normocapnia. Children are especially vulnerable because small increases in apparatus dead space can significantly increase dead space to tidal volume ratio (Vd/Vt). The effect of changes in dead space on arterial CO2 (PaCO2) and required minute ventilation were calculated for patients weighing 2 to 17 kg that corresponds to 0 to 36 months of age. Apparatus volumes for typical devices were obtained from the manufacturer or measured by the volume of water required to fill the device. The relationship between the fraction of alveolar CO2 (FaCO2) and dead space volume (Vd) was derived from the Bohr equation, FaCO2 = VCO2/(RR*(Vt − Vd)), where VCO2 is CO2 production, RR is respiratory rate, and Vt is tidal volume. VCO2 was estimated by using Brody’s equation for humans aged up to 36 months, (VCO2 = 5.56*(wt)1.05), where weight is in kilogram. Initial conditions were Vt = 8 mL/kg, Vd/Vt = 0.3, and a RR of 20 breaths per minute. The relationship between PaCO2 and dead space was determined for increasing Vd. Rearranging the Bohr equation, the RR required to maintain PaCO2 of 40 mm·Hg was determined as dead space increased. The apparatus Vd of typical device arrangements ranged from 8 to 55 mL, and these values were used for the dead space values in the model. PaCO2 increased exponentially with increasing apparatus dead space. For smaller patients, the PaCO2 increased more rapidly for small changes in Vd than that in larger patients. Similarly, RR required to maintain PaCO2 of 40 mm·Hg increased exponentially with increasing dead space. Increasing apparatus Vd can lead to exponential increases in PaCO2 and/or RR required to maintain normal PaCO2. The effect on PaCO2 is less as patient weight increases, but these data suggest it can be significant for typical circuit components up to at least 17 kg or aged 36 months.

From the General Anesthesia Division, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine/University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Accepted for publication January 15, 2014.

Funding: N/A.

Conflict of Interest: See Disclosures at the end of the article.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Matthew F. Pearsall, MD, General Anesthesia Division, Perelman School of Medicine/University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 9th Floor Main Building, 34th & Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia PA 19104. Address e-mail to

© 2014 International Anesthesia Research Society