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Is voluntary death from breath-holding possible?

Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Medicine. Anything human!

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Is voluntary death from breath-holding possible?

Postby Coelacanth » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:25 am

Lets assume the scenario of what is known as a SWB, or Shallow Water Blackout, however taking place on land. The person hyperventilates, so as to reduce the CO2 level in the blood. This results in a delay of the impulse the breathe, and so a person may pass out from hypoxia before feeling an urge to gasp. Once unconscious, does the following muscular relaxation result in respiritory arrest (and hence death from asphyxiation), or does one resume normal breathing?
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Re: Is voluntary death from breath-holding possible?

Postby daniel.kurz » Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:31 pm

No, they won't asphyxiate. They will only have a delayed impulse breath due to the reduced CO2 levels in their blood. The impulse breath is guided by the autonomic nervous system that is responding to mounting CO2 levels in the blood and falling O2 levels (although it is much more sensitive to CO2 levels). As soon as CO2 levels reach a high enough value, the person will have their impulse breath. The decreased CO2 levels due to hyperventilation will delay the impulse levels but because CO2 is linked directly to O2 usage, they will not die of hypoxia before their CO2 levels reach impulse level. Good thought though.
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