Modification of the CO-rebreathing method to determine haemoglobin mass and blood volume in patients suffering from chronic mountain sickness.Exp Physiol. 2019 12; 104(12):1819-1828.EP
What is the central question of this study? Is it necessary to modify the CO-rebreathing method to acquire reliable measurements of haemoglobin mass in patients with chronic mountain sickness? What is the main finding and its importance? The CO-rebreathing method must be modified because of the prolonged CO-mixing time in patients with chronic mountain sickness. After adaptation of the blood sampling method, reliable and valid results were attained. With this modification, it is possible to quantify the extent of polycythaemia and to distinguish between a haemoconcentration and an exclusive enhancement of erythrocyte volume.
Patients suffering from chronic mountain sickness (CMS) exhibit extremely high haemoglobin concentrations. Their haemoglobin mass (Hbmass), however, has rarely been investigated. The CO-rebreathing protocol for Hbmass determination in those patients might need to be modified because of restricted peripheral perfusion. The aim of this study was to evaluate the CO uptake and carboxyhaemoglobin-mixing time in the blood of CMS patients and to adapt the CO-rebreathing method for this group. Twenty-five male CMS patients living at elevations between 3600 and 4100 m above sea level were compared with ethnically matched healthy control subjects from identical elevations (n = 11) and near sea level (n = 9) and with a Caucasian group from sea level (n = 6). CO rebreathing was performed for 2 min, and blood samples were taken for the subsequent 30 min. After the method was modified, its reliability was evaluated in test-retest experiments (n = 28), and validity was investigated by measuring the Hbmass before and after the phlebotomy of 500 ml (n = 4). CO uptake was not affected by CMS. The carboxyhaemoglobin mixing was completed after 8 min in the Caucasian group but after 14 min in the groups living at altitude. When blood was sampled 14-20 min after inhalation, the typical error of the method was 1.6% (confidence limits 1.2-2.5%). After phlebotomy, Hbmass decreased from 1779 ± 123 to 1650 ± 129 g, and no difference was found between the measured and calculated Hbmass (1666 ± 122 g). When the time of blood sampling was adapted to accommodate a prolonged carboxyhaemoglobin-mixing time, the CO-rebreathing method became a reliable and valid tool to determine Hbmass in CMS patients.