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Escape of large volumes of helium, a relatively insoluble gas, into the aorta is lethal within 2 to 3 minutes in volumes of 1 to 3 c.c. per kilogram of body weight.
The distribution of helium is such that despite the release of the gas into the descending aorta, the coronary and cerebral vessels and the left ventricle fill promptly.
Even smaller amounts of gas, 0.5 to 1.0 c.c. per kilogram of body weight, are associated with extensive areas of coronary artery and cerebral artery obstruction and change in the EEG.
Despite the continuance of the ECG for 2 to 3 minutes after the escape of helium, the brain's function is destroyed within one minute.
As the helium rapidly accumulates in the left ventricle, aspiration of the ventricle will remove the helium, but it will not and can-not remove the helium from the cerebral or other vessels into which the gas enters simultaneously. The release of intra-aortic helium is lethal whether aspirated from the left ventricle or not.
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Accepted: February 2, 1970
© 1971 Published by Elsevier Inc.