Background: In tracheally intubated or tracheostomized spontaneously breathing patients, tube resistance can highly increase the patient's work of breathing. In this study we focused upon the relationship between total (WOBtot) and tube-related additional inspiratory work of breathing (WOBadd) and compared different ventilatory modalities for proper tube compensation.
Methods: In ten tracheostomized spontaneously breathing patients we measured WOBtot and WOBadd in the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mode, under inspiratory pressure support of 5, 10, and 15 cmH2O in the pressure support ventilation (PSV) mode, and under flow-adjusted pressure support in the automatic tube compensation (ATC) mode. WOBadd and WOBtot were calculated on the basis of measured tracheal pressure and esophageal pressure, respectively. Inspiratory peak tracheal pressure above PEEP was taken as an estimate of pressure support beyond mere tube compensation (i.e., overcompensation).
Results: The percentage of the tube-related WOBadd on WOBtot in the CPAP mode was 52%. It decreased with increasing pressure support in the PSV mode from 32% (PSV 5 cmH2O) to 17% (PSV 15 cmH2O). WOBadd was only 15% of WOBtot in the ATC mode. In contrast to the other ventilatory modes, reduction of WOBadd in the ATC mode was achieved with the smallest amount of overcompensation, i.e. with minimal pressure assist beyond mere tube compensation.
Conclusion: In tracheally intubated or tracheostomized spontaneously breathing patients, adequate compensation of tube resistance (i.e. with minimal overcompensation and minimal undercompensation) is best done by the ATC mode.