Six patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (forced expiratory volume in one second, 1.01 ± 0.08 L [mean ± SEM]) were given either 1 mL of 100% alcohol per kilogram of body weight in an aqueous solution or a similar volume of water in a crossover design on consecutive days. All subjects became intoxicated and the peak alcohol concentration was 137 ± 11 mg/dL, 40 minutes after ingestion. No significant difference was found in either Pao2 or Paco2 between the alcohol and control period. A significant decrease in arterial pH occurred following alcohol (P <.05), and represented a mild metabolic acidosis. Alcohol ingestion resulted in an increase in oxygen consumption (P <.05) and carbon dioxide production (P <.05) but no change in respiratory rate. It appears that small to moderate amounts of alcohol will not cause marked changes in oxygen tension or alveolar hypoventilation in patients with severe COPD who do not have marked hypercapnia. Nevertheless, other effects of alcohol on the cardiopulmonary system and the concomitant use of sedatives have to be considered before condoning the use of alcohol.
(Arch Intern Med 139:429-431, 1979)