Implementation of a low tidal volume ventilation protocol for patients with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome

Respir Care. 2001 Oct;46(10):1024-37.


The ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) Network study found 22% lower mortality in acute lung injury and ARDS patients ventilated with low tidal volumes (V(T)) than in those ventilated with traditional V(T) ventilation. Several points should be considered when using the low V(T) protocol for clinical practice. Prior to implementation, hemodynamic and acid-base status, minute ventilation, and adequacy of sedation should be assessed to minimize the potential for intolerance. The volume-preset, assist-control mode is recommended for better control of V(T), and the respiratory rate should be increased as V(T) is reduced, so as to maintain minute ventilation and prevent acute hypercapnia. When unavoidable, hypercapnia should be induced slowly. Ventilator inspiratory flow (V(I)) and trigger sensitivity settings should be optimized to limit the increase in work of breathing and dyspnea. When dyspnea results in double-triggered breaths, V(T) can be titrated to 7-8 mL/kg, provided end-inspiratory plateau pressure is < or = 30 cm H(2)O. In severe acidosis (pH < 7.15) V(T) also can be increased. However, every effort should be made to maintain plateau pressure and V(T) goals by buffering severe acidosis and treating patient-ventilator asynchrony with sedation. Evaluation for weaning should occur when adequate oxygenation can be maintained on 40% oxygen and a positive end-expiratory pressure of 8 cm H(2)O. Pressure support levels between 5 and 20 cm H(2)O (above 5 cm H(2)O positive end-expiratory pressure) are used for weaning and titrated to keep the respiratory rate < 35 breaths/min. Pressure support levels should be weaned aggressively, as long as the protocol's weaning tolerance criteria can be maintained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Barotrauma / etiology
  • Barotrauma / prevention & control
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury*
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / mortality
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Tidal Volume