Consequences Of Brief Exposure To High Concentrations Of Carbon Monoxide In Conscious Rats


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Exposure to high-concentration carbon monoxide (CO) is of concern in military operations. Experimentally, the physiologic manifestations of a brief exposure to elevated levels of CO have not been fully described. This study investigated the development of acute CO poisoning in conscious male Sprague-Dawley rats (220-380 g). Animals were randomly grouped (n = 6) and exposed to either air or 1 of 6 CO concentrations (1000, 3000, 6000, 10,000, 12,000, or 24,000 ppm) in a continuous air/CO dynamic exposure chamber for 5 min. Respiration was recorded prior to and during exposures. Mixed blood carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) and pH were measured before and immediately after exposure. Before exposure the mean baselines of respiratory minute volumes (RMVs) were 312.6 +/- 43.9, 275.2 +/- 40.8, and 302.3 +/- 39.1 ml/min for the 10,000, 12,000 and 24,000 ppm groups, respectively. In the last minute of exposure RMVs were 118.9 +/- 23.7, 62.1 +/- 10.4, and 22.0 +/- 15.1% (p < .05) of their mean baselines in these 3 groups, respectively. Immediately after exposure, blood COHb saturations were elevated to 60.16, 63.42, and 69.37%, and blood pH levels were reduced to 7.43 +/- 0.09, 7.25 +/- 0.05, and 7.13 +/- 0.04 in the 3 groups, respectively. Mortality during exposure was 1/12 in the 12,000 ppm group and 4/12 in the 24,000 ppm group. Deaths occurred close to the end of 5 min exposure. In each animal that died by exposure, pH was <6.87 and COHb saturation was >82%. Blood pH was unaltered and no death occurred in rats exposed to CO at concentrations <6000 ppm, although COHb saturations were elevated to 14.52, 29.94, and 57.24% in the 1000, 3000, and 6000 ppm groups, respectively. These results suggest that brief exposure to CO at concentrations <10,000 ppm may produce some significant physiological changes. However, exposure to CO at concentrations >10,000 ppm for brief periods as short as 5 min may change RMV, resulting in acute respiratory failure, acidemia, and even death.
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