Alterations of breathing in chronic heart failure: Clinical rilevance of arterial oxygen saturation instability

A. Mortara, L. Bernardi, G. Pinna, G. Spadacini, R. Maestri, M. Dambacher, C. Muller, P. Sleight, L. Tavazzi, H. Roskamm, A. W. Frey

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1. In patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) alterations of breathing such as Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR) or periodic breathing, (PB) have been frequently described during both day- and night-time. These respiratory rhythm disorders are associated with marked oscillations of arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) which may expose the patients to prolonged hypoxia. 2. In 40 stable CHF patients and 8 controls during awake day-time, we studied the relationship between alterations of breathing and SaO2, to verify the effect of voluntary control of respiration or oxygen therapy on the instability of SaO2 (analyzed as standard deviation (SD) of the mean value). Simultaneous recordings of ECG, lung volumes and SaO2 were made during 10 min. resting and 4 min. controlled breathing. In a subgroup of 5 CHF the effect of oxygen therapy was compared to that of controlled breathing. 3. It was found that 62% of CHF had CSR or PB. Mean SaO2 and SD of SaO2 were significantly different in CHF as compared to controls (respectively 92.4 ± 2.5 vs 95.4 ± 0.5%, p <0.002 and (1.27 ± 0.9 vs 0.28 ± 0.13%, p <0.01), but among CHF pts those with CSR and PB had a lower SaO2 and a more pronounced instability of SaO2. Controlled breathing eliminated apneas and reduced or abolished the variation of tidal volume. In both control and CHF it resulted in an increase of mean SaO2 while a significant reduction of SaO2 instability was observed only in CHF, particularly if CSR or PB were present. Voluntary control of respiration was similar to oxygen therapy in increasing SaO2, but more effective on SaO2 SD. 4. It is concluded that in stable CHF, resting SaO2 is reduced and showed a marked instability particularly when periodic alterations of breathing were present. Continuous beat-to-beat recording of SaO2 may detect patients who have PB or CSR. Training to produce more regular breathing, regardless of the amount of ventilation, may represent a useful intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-74
Number of pages3
JournalClinical Science
Issue number1 SUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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