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Chest. 1994 Nov;106(5):1511-6.

Influence of positioning on ventilation-perfusion relationships in severe adult respiratory distress syndrome.

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Klinik für Anaesthesiologie und operative Intensivmedizin, Universitätsklinikum Rudolf Virchow, Freie Universität, Berlin, Republic of Germany.


In 12 patients with severe adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), pulmonary gas exchange and hemodynamics were evaluated before, during, and after a 2-h period of pressure-controlled mechanical ventilation with the patient in the prone position. Ventilation-perfusion relationships (VA/Q) were assessed by a multiple inert gas elimination technique. Pressure-controlled mechanical ventilation in the prone position resulted in an overall increase (p < or = 0.05) of arterial oxygenation after 120 min (98.4 +/- 50.3 to 146.2 +/- 94.9 mm Hg). Whereas eight patients revealed an improvement of PaO2 of more than 10 mm Hg after 30 min in the prone position (responders), four patients reacted to positional changes with a deterioration of arterial oxygenation (nonresponders). Data about the continuous distribution of ventilation-perfusion ratios revealed that in the responder group positioning caused a decrease of shunt perfusion of 11 +/- 5% and a concomitant increase of normal VA/Q by 12 +/- 4% after 30 min. There was no change demonstrable within low VA/Q areas. Returning the patient to the supine position reversed the improvement in gas exchange. The nonresponder group did not show any significant alteration in the distribution of VA/Q during the study. We concluded that improvement of oxygenation during pressure-controlled mechanical ventilation in the prone position is due to a shift of blood flow away from shunt regions, thus increasing areas with normal VA/Q. This redistribution of blood flow is most likely caused by a recruitment of previously ateletatic but nondiseased areas induced by altered gravitational forces.

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