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Thorax. 2002 Mar;57(3):258-62.

Effect of assist negative pressure ventilation by microprocessor based iron lung on breathing effort.

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Respiratory Intensive Care Unit, Careggi Hospital, Firenze, Italy.



The lack of patient triggering capability during negative pressure ventilation (NPV) may contribute to poor patient synchrony and induction of upper airway collapse. This study was undertaken to evaluate the performance of a microprocessor based iron lung capable of thermistor triggering.


The effects of NPV with thermistor triggering were studied in four normal subjects and six patients with an acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by measuring: (1) the time delay (TDtr) between the onset of inspiratory airflow and the start of assisted breathing; (2) the pressure-time product of the diaphragm (PTPdi); and (3) non-triggering inspiratory efforts (NonTrEf). In patients the effects of negative extrathoracic end expiratory pressure (NEEP) added to NPV were also evaluated.


With increasing trigger sensitivity the mean (SE) TDtr ranged from 0.29 (0.02) s to 0.21 (0.01) s (mean difference 0.08 s, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.12) in normal subjects and from 0.30 (0.02) s to 0.21 (0.01) s (mean difference 0.09 s, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.12) in patients with COPD; NonTrEf ranged from 8.2 (1.8)% to 1.2 (0.1)% of the total breaths in normal subjects and from 11.8 (2.2)% to 2.5 (0.4)% in patients with COPD. Compared with spontaneous breathing, PTPdi decreased significantly with NPV both in normal subjects and in patients with COPD. NEEP added to NPV resulted in a significant decrease in dynamic intrinsic PEEP, diaphragm effort exerted in the pre-trigger phase, and NonTrEf.


Microprocessor based iron lung capable of thermistor triggering was able to perform assist NPV with acceptable TDtr, significant unloading of the diaphragm, and a low rate of NonTrEf. NEEP added to NPV improved the synchrony between the patient and the ventilator.

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