Safety of pressure-volume curve measurement in acute lung injury and ARDS using a syringe technique

Chest. 2002 May;121(5):1595-601. doi: 10.1378/chest.121.5.1595.


Study objectives: To assess the safety of frequent pressure-volume (PV) curve measurement in patients with acute lung injury (ALI)/ARDS.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: Academic medical-surgical critical care unit.

Patients: Consecutive patients with ALI or ARDS.

Interventions: Static inspiratory PV curves of the respiratory system were determined twice on day 1, then once daily for up to 6 days using a syringe. At each time point, three separate measurements of the PV curve were made. A 100-mL graduated syringe was used to inflate patients' lungs with 50- to 100-mL increments up to an airway pressure of 45 cm H(2)O or a total volume of 2 L; each volume step was maintained for 2 to 3 s until a plateau airway pressure was recorded. Outcome measures were mean arterial BP, heart rate (HR), and oxyhemoglobin saturation (SpO(2)) prior to and immediately after PV curve measurement. There were a priori criteria for procedure discontinuation if poorly tolerated.

Measurements and results: Eleven patients were enrolled with a total of 134 PV curves generated. SpO(2) was 93 +/- 4% (mean +/- SD) before and fell to a nadir of 89 +/- 5% during PV curve measurement (p < 0.001), but increased to 97 +/- 4% immediately afterwards (p < 0.001, before vs after). HR rose from 106 +/- 22 to 108 +/- 22 beats/min immediately after the maneuver (p < 0.001). Mean arterial BP was 93 +/- 15 mm Hg before and 100 +/- 17 mm Hg immediately afterwards (p < 0.001). During PV curve measurement, systolic BP in one patient fell to 64 mm Hg from 113 mm Hg; in another patient, SpO(2) dropped to 79% from 89%. Both changes were transient. The study was discontinued in one patient because of inability to tolerate zero positive end-expiratory pressure; in another patient, the study was discontinued because of the development of subcutaneous emphysema.

Conclusions: PV curve measurement by syringe technique is well tolerated in most patients. Nonetheless, the maneuver may cause significant changes in oxygenation and/or hemodynamics, necessitating close monitoring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pressure
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements / instrumentation
  • Lung Volume Measurements / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy
  • Syringes


  • Oxygen