Replicating measurements of total hemoglobin mass (tHb-mass) within a single day: precision of measurement; feasibility and safety of using oxygen to expedite carbon monoxide clearance

James O.M. Plumb, Shriya Kumar, James Otto, Walter Schmidt, Toby Richards, Hugh E. Montgomery, Mike P.W. Grocott

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Hemoglobin concentration ([Hb]) is a function of total hemoglobin mass (tHb-mass) and plasma volume. [Hb] may fall by dilution due to plasma volume expansion and changes in the perioperative period may therefore correlate poorly with blood loss. A simple, reliable, repeatable way to measure plasma volume and tHb-mass would have substantial clinical utility. The “optimized carbon monoxide re-breathing method” (oCOR) meets these criteria. However, it is recommended that a minimum of 12 h (when breathing room air) is left between repeat measurements. Twenty-four subjects underwent 3 days of testing. Two oCOR tests were performed (T1 and T2), 3 h apart, with a different CO clearance method employed between tests aiming to keep the carboxyhemoglobin level below 10%. The primary aim was to ascertain whether tHb-mass testing could be safely repeated within 3 h if carboxyhemoglobin levels were actively reduced by breathing supplemental oxygen (PROCA). Secondary aims were to compare two other clearance methods; moderate exercise (PROCB), or a combination of the two (PROCC). Finally, the reliability of the oCOR method was assessed. Mean (SD) tHb-mass was 807.9 ± (189.7 g) (for T1 on day 1). PROCA lowered the carboxyhemoglobin level from the end of T1 (mean 6.64%) to the start of T2 (mean 2.95%) by a mean absolute value of 3.69%. For PROCB and PROCC the mean absolute decreases in carboxyhemoglobin were 4.00% and 4.31%, respectively. The fall in carboxyhemoglobin between T1 and T2 was greatest in PROCC; this was statistically significantly lower than that of PROCA (P = 0.0039) and PROCB (P = 0.0289). The test-retest reliability for the measurement of total hemoglobin mass was good with a mean typical error (TE) of 2.0%. The oCOR method is safe and can be repeated within 3 h when carbon monoxide is suitably cleared between tests. Using oxygen therapy alone adequately achieves this.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13829
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood volume
  • optimized carbon monoxide re-breathing
  • plasma volume
  • red cell volume
  • total hemoglobin mass (tHb-mass)

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