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Definition of Hypercapnia

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Updated March 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Hypercapnia refers to an increased amount of carbon dioxide, the waste product of respiration, in the blood.

There are many causes of hypercapnia, COPD being just one of them. Hypoventilation or narcotic drug overdose are other common causes.

Patients who have COPD have difficulty moving air into and out of the lungs. This means it is also difficult for the lungs to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide, which is an essential part of the breathing process. This can lead to low levels of oxygen in the blood, (hypoxemia) and high levels of carbon dioxide (hypercapnia).

For more information about the causes, symptoms and treatment of hypercapnia, read:

What is Hypercapnia?

Also Known As: high carbon dioxide, increased carbon dioxide levels

Common Misspellings: hypercabnia, hyperkapnia

Examples: Mr. Jones went into respiratory failure due to hypercapnia and was subsequently hospitalized.

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