Cerebrospinal Fluid and Arterial Acid–Base Equilibrium of Spontaneously Breathing Patients with Aneurismal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Thomas Langer, Francesco Zadek, Marco Carbonara, Alessio Caccioppola, Serena Brusatori, Tommaso Zoerle, Francesco Bottazzini, Chiara Ferraris Fusarini, Adriana di Modugno, Alberto Zanella, Elisa R. Zanier, Roberto Fumagalli, Antonio Pesenti, Nino Stocchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hyperventilation resulting in hypocapnic alkalosis (HA) is frequently encountered in spontaneously breathing patients with acute cerebrovascular conditions. The underlying mechanisms of this respiratory response have not been fully elucidated. The present study describes, applying the physical–chemical approach, the acid-base characteristics of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and arterial plasma of spontaneously breathing patients with aneurismal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and compares these results with those of control patients. Moreover, it investigates the pathophysiologic mechanisms leading to HA in SAH. Methods: Patients with SAH admitted to the neurological intensive care unit and patients (American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status of 1 and 2) undergoing elective surgery under spinal anesthesia were enrolled. CSF and arterial samples were collected simultaneously. Electrolytes, strong ion difference (SID), partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2), weak noncarbonic acids (ATOT), and pH were measured in CSF and arterial blood samples. Results: Twenty spontaneously breathing patients with SAH and 25 controls were enrolled. The CSF of patients with SAH, as compared with controls, was characterized by a lower SID (23.1 ± 2.3 vs. 26.5 ± 1.4 mmol/L, p < 0.001) and PCO2 (40 ± 4 vs. 46 ± 3 mm Hg, p < 0.001), whereas no differences in ATOT (1.2 ± 0.5 vs. 1.2 ± 0.2 mmol/L, p = 0.95) and pH (7.34 ± 0.06 vs. 7.35 ± 0.02, p = 0.69) were observed. The reduced CSF SID was mainly caused by a higher lactate concentration (3.3 ± 1.3 vs. 1.4 ± 0.2 mmol/L, p < 0.001). A linear association (r = 0.71, p < 0.001) was found between CSF SID and arterial PCO2. A higher proportion of patients with SAH were characterized by arterial HA, as compared with controls (40 vs. 4%, p = 0.003). A reduced CSF-to-plasma difference in PCO2 was observed in nonhyperventilating patients with SAH (0.4 ± 3.8 vs. 7.8 ± 3.7 mm Hg, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Patients with SAH have a reduction of CSF SID due to an increased lactate concentration. The resulting localized acidifying effect is compensated by CSF hypocapnia, yielding normal CSF pH values and resulting in a higher incidence of arterial HA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-110
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Acid–base equilibrium
  • Blood
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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