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Clinical Director Hope Fine, RRT-CHT

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of death by poisoning in the United States. Death from CO poisoning is caused by hypoxia resulting from displacement of oxygen from the hemoglobin. Instead, CO binds to the hemoglobin resulting in toxic levels of COHB (carboxyhemoglobin).

CO can have an adverse effect on the heart, lungs, musculoskeletal system, skin, peripheral nervous system, gastrointestinal system, vision, sleep, and central nervous system.

By hyper-oxygenating the body under pressure (HBO), oxygen can transfer into the hypoxic tissues. Hyper-oxygenation may be achieved by breathing 100% oxygen either at atmospheric pressure or under hyperbaric conditions. HBO is more effective. HBO accomplishes the following goals on CO poisoning:

Saturates the plasma with enough oxygen to sustain life and to counteract tissue hypoxia in spite of high levels of COHB

Causes a rapid reduction of CO in the blood by mass action of O2.

HBO reduces cerebral edema

Brain lipid peroxidation caused by CO is prevented by 100% oxygen at 3 ATA

HBO prevents immune-mediated delayed neurologic dysfunction following exposure.

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