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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1999 Mar;43(3):295-301.

Positive end-expiratory pressure prevents atelectasis during general anaesthesia even in the presence of a high inspired oxygen concentration.

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Department of Clinical Physiology, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.



General anaesthesia impairs the gas exchange in the lungs, and moderate desaturation (SaO2 86-90%) occurred in 50% of anaesthetised patients in a blinded pulse oximetry study. A high FiO2 might reduce the risk of hypoxaemia, but can also promote atelectasis. We hypothesised that a moderate positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) level of 10 cmH2O can prevent atelectasis during ventilation with an FiO2 = 1.0.


Atelectasis was evaluated by computed tomography (CT) in 13 ASA I-II patients undergoing elective surgery. CT scans were obtained before and 15 min after induction of anaesthesia. Then, recruitment of collapsed lung tissue was performed as a "vital capacity manoeuvre" (VCM, inspiration with Paw = 40 cmH2O for 15 s), and a CT scan was obtained at the end of the VCM. Thereafter, PEEP = 0 cmH2O was applied in group 1, and PEEP = 10 cmH2O in group 2. Additional CT scans were obtained after the VCM. Oxygenation was measured before and after the VCM.


Atelectasis (> 1 cm2) was present in 12 of the 13 patients after induction of anaesthesia. At 5 and 10 min after the VCM, atelectasis was significantly smaller in group 2 than group 1 (P < 0.005). A significant inverse correlation was found between PaO2 and atelectasis.


PEEP = 10 cmH2O reduced atelectasis formation after a VCM, when FiO2 = 1.0 was used. Thus, a VCM followed by PEEP = 10 cmH2O should be considered when patients are ventilated with a high FiO2 and gas exchange is impaired.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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