Sodium bicarbonate therapy for acute respiratory acidosis
Curr. opin. nephrol. hypertens
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Respiratory acidosis is commonly present in patients with respiratory failure. The usual treatment of hypercapnia is to increase ventilation. During the recent surge of COVID-19, respiratory acidosis unresponsive to increased mechanical ventilatory support was common. Increasing mechanical ventilation comes at the expense of barotrauma and hemodynamic compromise from increasing positive end-expiratory pressures or minute ventilation. Treating acute respiratory acidemia with sodium bicarbonate remains controversial. RECENT FINDINGS: There are no randomized controlled trials of administration of sodium bicarbonate for respiratory acidemia. A recent review concluded that alkali therapy for mixed respiratory and metabolic acidosis might be useful but was based on the conflicting and not conclusive literature regarding metabolic acidosis. This strategy should not be extrapolated to treatment of respiratory acidemia. Low tidal volume ventilation in acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has beneficial effects associated with permissive hypercapnia. Whether the putative benefits will be negated by administration of alkali is not known. Hypercapnic acidosis is well tolerated, with few adverse effects as long as tissue perfusion and oxygenation are maintained. SUMMARY: There is a lack of clinical evidence that administration of sodium bicarbonate for respiratory acidosis has a net benefit; in fact, there are potential risks associated with it.