iPhoneIcon_BigI found two interesting papers in EMJ. Both recently published. If you intubate a fresh frozen cadaver and ventilate you will get a transient capnography trace very similar to a trace from a living patient. I had heard about it before but haven’t seen any evidence until now.

ETCO2 in kPa. From Reid et al.

ETCO2 in kPa. From Reid et al.

In the first paper, by Cliff Reid et al. obtained two cadavers in order to see wether residual CO2 could be detected post-mortem. The first cadaver had died 15 days previously, had been frozen for five days and then thawed out four days prior to study. The second cadaver had been dead since 14 days.

Both cadavers were intubated, hand ventilated and a side-stream ETCO2-detector was connected to the circuit. Both cadavers generated a normal ETCO2 trace lasting 1-2 minutes with physiological CO2 measurements.

From Coats et al.

From Coats et al.

In the second paper, Coats et al. intubate a cadaver where life had been extinct for 32 hours as part of a research project on post-mortem CT. Again a CO2-trace similar to a live patient was generated. Interestingly, the ETCO2 increased after CPR was initiated…


Papers live here:

Emerg Med J. 2015 Mar;32(3):232-3.  Sustained life-like waveform capnography after human cadaveric tracheal intubation. Reid C, Lewis A, Habig K, Burns B, Billson F, Kunkel S, Fisk W.

Emerg Med J. 2015 Jun 4. pii: emermed-2015-204950. End-tidal CO2 detection during cadaveric ventilation. Coats TJ1, Morgan B2, Robinson C3, Biggs M4, Adnan A5, Rutty G4.

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One Response to EWWW!

  1. Lundberg says:

    I cant access the full articles but I wounder if an infra red EtCO2 tracer can differ between CO2 and CH20 = formaldehyde (formalin) in case the cadavers where preservated with formalin? The infra red absorption spectrum in formaldehyde is wide and could possibly interfere. Did they say anything about that in the articles?

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