In a recent study, we compared a new intraarterial fiberoptic “optode” probe to continuously measure arterial oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions and pH with intermittently drawn blood samples in patients undergoing surgery. In one patient with a diagnosis of Arnold-Chiari type I malformation with outflow obstruction of the fourth ventricle, a major pulmonary air embolism occurred while the patient was undergoing suboccipital craniectomy and cervical laminectomy in the prone position. Three hours after the incision the optode-displayed oxygen tension decreased from a stable value of 225 ±8 mm Hg to 63 mm Hg over a 10-minute period. During the same interval, carbon dioxide tension increased and end-tidal carbon dioxide decreased; shortly thereafter, transcutaneous oxygen tension decreased also. Within 20 minutes after the inspired gas mixture was changed to 100% oxygen, the patient’s respiratory variables returned to near baseline. No further complications ensued. This is the first time continuously monitored arterial oxygen tension values during a pulmonary embolism have been reported. With further refinement, intraarterial optode probes will add another valuable method of detecting pulmonary air embolism.
Complications: air embolism Equipment: optodes Monitoring: carbon dioxide oxygen
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