A high intragastric PCO2 (iPCO2), determined tonometrically, is the main factor participating in a low gastric intramucosal pH (pHi) and may point to gastric mucosal ischaemia. iPCO2 might also increase, however, after buffering of gastric acid by bicarbonate; the magnitude of this effect and the efficacy of H2 blockers to prevent it are unclear. Ten healthy volunteers (20-24 years) were studied at baseline and after oral ingestion of 500 mg sodium bicarbonate. The same test was carried out one hour after intravenous injection of 100 mg ranitidine. A glass pH electrode for continuous gastric juice pH measurements and a Tonomitor catheter were placed 10 cm distally from the gastro-oesophageal junction. iPCO2 was measured in saline boluses, infused at 30 minute intervals in the balloon at the tip of the Tonomitor. Before ranitidine was given, basal iPCO2 (mean (SD)) was 8.40 (2.53) kPa, and increased to 19.20 (5.87) kPa after sodium bicarbonate (p < 0.001). After ranitidine, the gastric juice pH increased from 1.8 (0.9) to 5.6 (1.3) (p < 0.05), while basal iPCO2 was 5.60 (0.67) kPa (p < 0.01) and did not change after sodium bicarbonate (6.27 (2.67) kPa)). iPCO2 values after acid secretion suppression were similar to those in capillary blood (5.60 (0.40 kPa)). The difference between intragastric and blood PCO2 during normal acid secretion probably results from buffering of gastric acid by gastric bicarbonate, rather than by duodenogastric reflux or saliva entering the stomach. During acid secretion suppression, intragastric equals blood PCO2, even after oral ingestion of sodium bicarbonate. Hence, acid secretion inhibition is mandatory for proper assessment of iPCO2 and pHi as specific measures of the adequacy of gastric mucosal blood flow.
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