Effects of alveolar dead-space, shunt and V̇/Q̇ distribution on respiratory dead-space measurements

Y. Tang, M. J. Turner, A. B. Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Respiratory dead-space is often increased in lung disease. This study evaluates the effects of increased alveolar dead-space (VDalv), pulmonary shunt, and abnormal ventilation perfusion ratio (V̇/Q̇) distributions on dead-space and alveolar partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PAco2) calculated by various methods, assesses a recently published non-invasive method (Koulouris method) for the measurement of Bohr dead-space, and evaluates an equation for calculating physiological dead-space (VDphys) in the presence of pulmonary shunt. Methods. Pulmonary shunt, V̇/Q̇ distribution and VDalv were varied in a tidally breathing cardiorespiratory model. Respiratory data generated by the model were analysed to calculate dead-spaces by the Fowler, Bohr, Bohr-Enghoff and Koulouris methods. PAco2 was calculated by the method of Koulouris. Results. When VDalv is increased, VDphys can be recovered by the Bohr and Bohr-Enghoff equations, but not by the Koulouris method. Shunt increases the calculated Bohr-Enghoff dead-space, but does not affect Fowler, Bohr or Koulouris dead-spaces, or VDphys estimated by the shunt-corrected equation if pulmonary artery catheterization is available. Bohr-Enghoff but not Koulouris or Fowler dead-space increases with increasing severity of V̇/Q̇ maldistribution. When alveolar PCO2 is increased by any mechanism, PACO2 calculated by Koulouris' method does not agree well with average alveolar PCO2. Conclusions. Our studies show that increased pulmonary shunt causes an apparent increase in VDphys, and that abnormal V̇/Q̇ distributions affect the calculated VDphys and VDalv, but not Fowler dead-space. Dead-space and PAco2 calculated by the Koulouris method do not represent true Bohr dead-space and PAco2 respectively, but the shunt-corrected equation performs well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-548
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Computers
  • Lung, shunting
  • Ventilation, deadspace
  • Ventilation, ventilation-perfusion

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