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Eur Respir J Suppl. 2003 Aug;42:15s-21s.

How respiratory system mechanics may help in minimising ventilator-induced lung injury in ARDS patients.

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Università di Torino, Dipartimento di discipline Medico-Chirurgiche, Sezione di Anestesiologia e Rianimazione, Ospedale S. Giovanni Battista, Torino, Italy.


The main supportive therapy in acute respiratory distress syndrome patients is mechanical ventilation. As with any therapy, mechanical ventilation has side-effects, and may induce lung injury (ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI)/ventilator-associated lung injury). The mechanical factors responsible for VILI are thought to be related to tidal recruitment/derecruitment of previously collapsed alveoli and/or pulmonary overdistension. The volume/pressure (V/P) curve of the respiratory system in patients as well as in animal models of acute lung injury (ALI) has a characteristic sigmoid shape, with a lower inflection point (LIP) corresponding to the pressure/end-expiratory volume required to initiate recruitment of collapsed alveoli, and an upper inflection point (UIP) corresponding to the pressure/end inspiratory volume at which alveolar overdistension occurs. "Protective" ventilatory approaches have therefore set out to minimise mechanical injury by using the V/P curve to individualise positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) (PEEP above the LIP) and tidal volume (by setting end-inspiratory V/P below the UIP) since a large number of experimental studies correlate P/V curves to histological and biological manifestations of VILI and two randomised trials showed that protective ventilatory strategy individually tailored to the P/V curve minimised pulmonary and systemic inflammation and decreased mortality in patients with ALI. However, despite the fact that several studies have: 1) proposed new techniques to perform pressure/volume curves at the bedside, 2) confirmed that the lower inflection point and upper inflection point correspond to computed tomography scan evidence of atelectasis and overdistension, and 3) demonstrated the ability of the pressure/volume curve to estimate alveolar recruitment with positive end-expiratory pressure, no large studies have assessed whether such measurement can be performed in all intensive care units as a monitoring tool to orient ventilator therapy. Preliminary experimental and clinical studies show that the shape of the dynamic inspiratory pressure/time profile during constant flow inflation (stress index), allows prediction of a ventilatory strategy that minimises the occurrence of ventilator-induced lung injury.

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