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Concept: Breathing gas


Background Whether noninvasive ventilation should be administered in patients with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure is debated. Therapy with high-flow oxygen through a nasal cannula may offer an alternative in patients with hypoxemia. Methods We performed a multicenter, open-label trial in which we randomly assigned patients without hypercapnia who had acute hypoxemic respiratory failure and a ratio of the partial pressure of arterial oxygen to the fraction of inspired oxygen of 300 mm Hg or less to high-flow oxygen therapy, standard oxygen therapy delivered through a face mask, or noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients intubated at day 28; secondary outcomes included all-cause mortality in the intensive care unit and at 90 days and the number of ventilator-free days at day 28. Results A total of 310 patients were included in the analyses. The intubation rate (primary outcome) was 38% (40 of 106 patients) in the high-flow-oxygen group, 47% (44 of 94) in the standard group, and 50% (55 of 110) in the noninvasive-ventilation group (P=0.18 for all comparisons). The number of ventilator-free days at day 28 was significantly higher in the high-flow-oxygen group (24±8 days, vs. 22±10 in the standard-oxygen group and 19±12 in the noninvasive-ventilation group; P=0.02 for all comparisons). The hazard ratio for death at 90 days was 2.01 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01 to 3.99) with standard oxygen versus high-flow oxygen (P=0.046) and 2.50 (95% CI, 1.31 to 4.78) with noninvasive ventilation versus high-flow oxygen (P=0.006). Conclusions In patients with nonhypercapnic acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, treatment with high-flow oxygen, standard oxygen, or noninvasive ventilation did not result in significantly different intubation rates. There was a significant difference in favor of high-flow oxygen in 90-day mortality. (Funded by the Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique Interrégional 2010 of the French Ministry of Health; FLORALI number, NCT01320384 .).

Concepts: Partial pressure, Breathing gas, Oxygen therapy, Hypoxemia, Hypoxia, Nasal cannula, Intensive care medicine, Oxygen


It has been widely believed that tissue nitrogen uptake from the lungs during breath-hold diving would be insufficient to cause decompression stress in humans. With competitive free-diving, however, diving depths have been ever increasing over the past decades.

Concepts: Decompression stop, Breathing gas, Underwater diving, Free-diving, Scuba diving


Decompression sickness (DCS), which is caused by inert gas bubbles in tissues, is an injury of concern for scuba divers, compressed air workers, astronauts, and aviators. Case reports for 3322 air and N2-O2 dives, resulting in 190 DCS events, were retrospectively analyzed and the outcomes were scored as (1) serious neurological, (2) cardiopulmonary, (3) mild neurological, (4) pain, (5) lymphatic or skin, and (6) constitutional or nonspecific manifestations. Following standard U.S. Navy medical definitions, the data were grouped into mild-Type I (manifestations 4-6)-and serious-Type II (manifestations 1-3). Additionally, we considered an alternative grouping of mild-Type A (manifestations 3-6)-and serious-Type B (manifestations 1 and 2). The current U.S. Navy guidance allows for a 2% probability of mild DCS and a 0.1% probability of serious DCS. We developed a hierarchical trinomial (3-state) probabilistic DCS model that simultaneously predicts the probability of mild and serious DCS given a dive exposure. Both the Type I/II and Type A/B discriminations of mild and serious DCS resulted in a highly significant (p < 0.01) improvement in trinomial model fit over the binomial (2-state) model. With the Type I/II definition, we found that the predicted probability of 'mild' DCS resulted in a longer allowable bottom time for the same 2% limit. However, for the 0.1% serious DCS limit, we found a vastly decreased allowable bottom dive time for all dive depths. If the Type A/B scoring was assigned to outcome severity, the no decompression limits (NDL) for air dives were still controlled by the acceptable serious DCS risk limit rather than the acceptable mild DCS risk limit. However, in this case, longer NDL limits were allowed than with the Type I/II scoring. The trinomial model mild and serious probabilities agree reasonably well with the current air NDL only with the Type A/B scoring and when 0.2% risk of serious DCS is allowed.

Concepts: Probability and statistics, Dive computer, Cabin pressurization, Breathing gas, Underwater diving, Nitrogen, Scuba diving, Probability


The oxygenation of the deep ocean in the geological past has been associated with a rise in the partial pressure of atmospheric molecular oxygen (O2) to near-present levels and the emergence of modern marine biogeochemical cycles. It has also been linked to the origination and diversification of early animals. It is generally thought that the deep ocean was largely anoxic from about 2,500 to 800 million years ago, with estimates of the occurrence of deep-ocean oxygenation and the linked increase in the partial pressure of atmospheric oxygen to levels sufficient for this oxygenation ranging from about 800 to 400 million years ago. Deep-ocean dissolved oxygen concentrations over this interval are typically estimated using geochemical signatures preserved in ancient continental shelf or slope sediments, which only indirectly reflect the geochemical state of the deep ocean. Here we present a record that more directly reflects deep-ocean oxygen concentrations, based on the ratio of Fe3+ to total Fe in hydrothermally altered basalts formed in ocean basins. Our data allow for quantitative estimates of deep-ocean dissolved oxygen concentrations from 3.5 billion years ago to 14 million years ago and suggest that deep-ocean oxygenation occurred in the Phanerozoic (541 million years ago to the present) and potentially not until the late Palaeozoic (less than 420 million years ago).

Concepts: Oxidation state, Oxygen toxicity, Chemistry, Partial pressure, Oxide, Iron, Breathing gas, Oxygen


The history of oxygen from discovery to clinical application for patients with chronic lung disease represents a long and storied journey. Within a relatively short period, early investigators not only discovered oxygen but also recognized its importance to life and its role in respiration. The application of oxygen to chronic lung disease, however, took several centuries. In the modern era, physiologists pursued the chemical nature of oxygen and its physiologic interaction with cellular metabolism and gas transport. It took brazen clinicians, however, to pursue oxygen as a therapeutic resource for patients with chronic lung disease because of the concern in the 20th century of the risks of oxygen toxicity. Application of ambulatory oxygen devices allowed landmark investigations of the long-term effects of continuous oxygen that established its safety and efficacy. Although now well established for hypoxic patients, many questions remain regarding the benefits of oxygen for varying severity and types of chronic lung disease.

Concepts: Ibn al-Nafis, Modern history, Scuba diving, Cellular respiration, Breathing gas, Carbon dioxide, 20th century, Oxygen


The diving environment provides a challenge to the lung, including exposure to high ambient pressure, altered gas characteristics and cardiovascular effects on the pulmonary circulation. Several factors associated with diving affect pulmonary function acutely and can potentially cause prolonged effects that may accumulate gradually with repeated diving exposure. Evidence from experimental deep dives and longitudinal studies suggests long-term adverse effects of diving on the lungs in commercial deep divers, such as the development of small airways disease and accelerated loss of lung function. In addition, there is an accumulating body of evidence that diving with self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) may not be associated with deleterious effects on pulmonary function. Although changes in pulmonary function after single scuba dives have been found to be associated with immersion, ambient cold temperatures and decompression stress, changes in lung function were small and suggest a low likelihood of clinical significance. Recent evidence points to no accelerated loss of lung function in military or recreational scuba divers over time. Thus, the impact of diving on pulmonary function largely depends on factors associated with the individual diving exposure. However, in susceptible subjects clinically relevant worsening of lung function may occur even after single shallow-water scuba dives.

Concepts: Self-contained breathing apparatus, Heart, Breathing gas, Scuba set, Decompression stop, Underwater diving, Lung, Scuba diving


Recreational diving with self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) has grown in popularity. Asthma is a common disease with a similar prevalence in divers as in the general population. Due to theoretical concern about an increased risk for pulmonary barotrauma and decompression sickness in asthmatic divers, in the past the approach to asthmatic diver candidates was very conservative, with scuba disallowed. However, experience in the field and data in the current literature do not support this dogmatic approach. In this review the theoretical risk factors of diving with asthma, the epidemiological data and the recommended approach to the asthmatic diver candidate will be described.

Concepts: Scuba set, Lung, Breathing gas, Self-contained breathing apparatus, Decompression stop, Epidemiology, Underwater diving, Scuba diving


To test the hypothesis whether enriched air nitrox (EAN) breathing during simulated diving reduces decompression stress when compared to compressed air breathing as assessed by intravascular bubble formation after decompression.

Concepts: Decompression stop, Oxygen toxicity, Dive computer, Oxygen, Technical diving, Nitrox, Breathing gas, Scuba diving


Although mitochondrial dysfunction is proposed to be involved in the pathophysiology of sepsis, conflicting results are reported. Variation in methods used to assess mitochondrial function might contribute to this controversy. A non-invasive method for monitoring mitochondrial function might help overcome this limitation. Therefore, this study explores the possibility of in vivo monitoring of mitochondrial oxygen tension (mitoPO2) and local mitochondrial oxygen consumptionin in an endotoxin-induced septic animal model.

Concepts: Bacteria, Carbon dioxide, Sociology, Animal testing, Breathing gas, Cellular respiration, Oxygen, Mitochondrion


Recent cetacean mass strandings in close temporal and spatial association with sonar activity has raised the concern that anthropogenic sound may harm breath-hold diving marine mammals. Necropsy results of the stranded whales have shown evidence of bubbles in the tissues, similar to those in human divers suffering from decompression sickness (DCS). It has been proposed that changes in behavior or physiological responses during diving could increase tissue and blood N2 levels, thereby increasing DCS risk. Dive data recorded from sperm, killer, long-finned pilot, Blainville’s beaked and Cuvier’s beaked whales before and during exposure to low- (1-2 kHz) and mid- (2-7 kHz) frequency active sonar were used to estimate the changes in blood and tissue N2 tension (PN2 ). Our objectives were to determine if differences in (1) dive behavior or (2) physiological responses to sonar are plausible risk factors for bubble formation. The theoretical estimates indicate that all species may experience high N2 levels. However, unexpectedly, deep diving generally result in higher end-dive PN2 as compared with shallow diving. In this focused review we focus on three possible explanations: (1) We revisit an old hypothesis that CO2, because of its much higher diffusivity, forms bubble precursors that continue to grow in N2 supersaturated tissues. Such a mechanism would be less dependent on the alveolar collapse depth but affected by elevated levels of CO2 following a burst of activity during sonar exposure. (2) During deep dives, a greater duration of time might be spent at depths where gas exchange continues as compared with shallow dives. The resulting elevated levels of N2 in deep diving whales might also make them more susceptible to anthropogenic disturbances. (3) Extended duration of dives even at depths beyond where the alveoli collapse could result in slow continuous accumulation of N2 in the adipose tissues that eventually becomes a liability.

Concepts: Submarine, Deep diving, Cuvier's beaked whale, Nitrogen, Underwater diving, Decompression stop, Breathing gas, Whale