Possible Mechanism for the Antiarrhythmic Effect of Helium in Anesthetized Dogs

Science  16 Jun 1972:
Vol. 176, Issue 4040, pp. 1250-1252
DOI: 10.1126/science.176.4040.1250


Breathing a mixture of 75 percent helium and 25 percent oxygen instead of 75 percent nitrogen and 25 percent oxygen reduced the occurrence of dangerous cardiac arrhythmias after ligation of the circumflex coronary artery in open-chest dogs anesthetized with pentobarbital. In dogs not subjected to circumflex ligation, the sensitivity of blood pressure, heart rate, and extrasystoles to epinephrine injected intravenously was not altered by the substitution of helium for nitrogen; however, helium did reduce the baseline heart rate and the concentration of endogenous plasma catecholamines. The antiarrhythmic effect of helium may thus be mediated by changes in sympathetic activity.