Noninvasive assessment of diffusion hypoxia following administration of nitrous oxide-oxygen.

Publication Date



Anesth Prog. 2004; 51(1): 10–13.


The phenomenon of diffusion hypoxia is commonly believed to occur unless nitrous oxide-oxygen inhalation sedation is followed by "washout" with 100% oxygen for 5 minutes upon termination of the flow of nitrous oxide. When systematically studied, however, this phenomenon generally appears to be unfounded. The present study evaluated the effect of breathing room air instead of 100% oxygen in healthy (ASA 1) human volunteers following administration of sedative concentrations of nitrous oxide. The occurrence of hypoxia was determined objectively, using pulse oximetry and a standardized psychomotor skills test (Trieger test). Diffusion hypoxia was not observed using these criteria.


Air, Anesthesia Recovery Period, Anesthetics, Inhalation, Anoxia, Conscious Sedation, Diffusion, Female, Humans, Male, Nitrous Oxide, Oximetry, Oxygen, Psychomotor Performance, Pulmonary Alveoli


PMCID: PMC2007466