CO2 excretion is impaired in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) due to underlying vascular obstruction and increased dead space. Our aim was to determine whether resting end tidal CO2 (Etco2) could differentiate patients with PAH from those with pulmonary venous hypertension (PVH) or patients without pulmonary hypertension (PH) and whether successful treatment of PAH resulted in higher Etco2 values.
We performed Etco2 measurements for five breaths at rest and after a 6-min walk test (6MWT) in patients seen at our pulmonary vascular center. Mean Etco2 values were correlated with 6-min walk distance and right-sided heart catheterization data.
We enrolled 84 patients with PAH, 17 with PVH without left ventricular systolic dysfunction, and seven with no PH and no severe alterations in pulmonary function testing. Etco2 was significantly lower in patients with PAH than in those with no PH and PVH (P < .0001 PAH vs both groups). Etco2 correlated with the pulmonary artery diastolic pressure-to-pulmonary artery occlusion pressure gradient (r = −0.50, P = .0002) and pulmonary vascular resistance (r = −0.44, P = .002). Etco2 after 6MWT correlated with walk distance (r = 0.34, P = .003). In patients with prostaglandin therapy escalation, Etco2 increased in those who had clinical improvement, whereas in patients who did not improve clinically, Etco2 failed to rise (P = .04).
Etco2 is a promising tool to differentiate patients with PAH from those with PVH or no PH, correlates with diagnostic and prognostic hemodynamic indicators, and may increase with successful treatment of PAH.