Background: Patient work of breathing (WOB) during assisted ventilation is reduced when inspiratory flow (V(I)) from the ventilator exceeds patient flow demand. Patients in acute respiratory failure often have unstable breathing patterns and their requirements for V(I) may change from breath to breath. Volume control ventilation (VCV) traditionally incorporates a pre-set ventilator V(I) that remains constant even under conditions of changing patient flow demand. In contrast, pressure control ventilation (PCV) incorporates a variable decelerating flow wave form with a high ventilator V(I) as inspiration commences. We compared the effects of flow patterns on assisted WOB during VCV and PCV.
Methods: WOB was measured with a BICORE CP-100 monitor (incorporating a Campbell Diagram) in a prospective, randomized cross-over study of 18 mechanically ventilated adult patients with acute lung injury (ALI) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Tidal volume, inspiratory time, and mean ventilator V(I) were constant in each mode.
Results: At comparable levels of respiratory drive and minute ventilation, patient WOB was significantly lower with PCV than with VCV (0.59 +/- 0.42 J/L vs 0.70 +/- 0.58 J/L, respectively, p < 0.05). Ventilator peak V(I) was significantly higher with PCV than with VCV (103.2 +/- 22.8 L/min vs 43.8 L/min, respectively, p < 0.01).
Conclusions: In the setting of ALI and ARDS, PCV significantly reduced patient WOB relative to VCV. The decrease in patient WOB was attributed to the higher ventilator peak V(I) of PCV.