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Br J Anaesth. 1999 Jan;82(1):8-13.

'Alveolar recruitment strategy' improves arterial oxygenation during general anaesthesia.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Hospital Privado de Comunidad, Mar del Plata, Argentina.


Abnormalities in gas exchange during general anaesthesia are caused partly by atelectasis. Inspiratory pressures of approximately 40 cm H2O are required to fully re-expand healthy but collapsed alveoli. However, without PEEP these re-expanded alveoli tend to collapse again. We hypothesized that an initial increase in pressure would open collapsed alveoli; if this inspiratory recruitment is combined with sufficient end-expiratory pressure, alveoli will remain open during general anaesthesia. We tested the effect of an 'alveolar recruitment strategy' on arterial oxygenation and lung mechanics in a prospective, controlled study of 30 ASA II or III patients aged more than 60 yr allocated to one of three groups. Group ZEEP received no PEEP. The second group received an initial control period without PEEP, and then PEEP 5 cm H2O was applied. The third group received an increase in PEEP and tidal volumes until a PEEP of 15 cm H2O and a tidal volume of 18 ml kg-1 or a peak inspiratory pressure of 40 cm H2O was reached. PEEP 5 cm H2O was then maintained. There was a significant increase in median PaO2 values obtained at baseline (20.4 kPa) and those obtained after the recruitment manoeuvre (24.4 kPa) at 40 min. This latter value was also significantly higher than PaO2 measured in the PEEP (16.2 kPa) and ZEEP (18.7 kPa) groups. Application of PEEP also had a significant effect on oxygenation; no such intra-group difference was observed in the ZEEP group. No complications occurred. We conclude that during general anaesthesia, the alveolar recruitment strategy was an efficient way to improve arterial oxygenation.

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