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Combo Treatment Aids CO Poison Victims

Mix of oxygen, carbon dioxide may help prevent brain damage

FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- University of Toronto researchers have developed a new first-aid treatment that could prevent brain damage in people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The method delivers more oxygen to the brain than the current standard treatment.

The researchers studied 14 people who were exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide (their blood levels were about the same as those in heavy smokers) on two occasions to simulate carbon monoxide poisoning conditions.

After each of the one-hour exposures, the study subjects were given either the standard treatment of 100 percent oxygen, or the new method consisting of a mixture of mostly oxygen with some carbon dioxide. All received both treatments at random.

During the exposure to the carbon monoxide and after administering the treatments, the researchers monitored the amount of oxygen in the participants' blood and the blood flow to their brains.

The study, pubished in the December issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found treatment with 100 percent oxygen diminished blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain. Blood flow decreased by as much as 33 percent and oxygen delivery to the brain was reduced by as much as 20 percent.

That amount of decrease in blood flow to the brain is enough to cause brain damage in a person suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

During treatment with the oxygen-carbon dioxide combination, oxygen delivery to the brain was greater than during treatment with oxygen alone and the rate of carbon monoxide elimination increased by more than 20 percent.

This study raises the possibility that the current standard first-aid treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning constricts blood vessels going to the brain and reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain.

The researchers think the small amount of carbon dioxide in their new treatment counteracts constriction of blood vessels going to the brain. In a prepared statement, they say clinical studies on this new treatment need to be done before anyone recommends changing current first-aid treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the dangers and prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning.

SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, Dec. 3, 2002
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