Bench-to-bedside review: chest wall elastance in acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome patients

Crit Care. 2004 Oct;8(5):350-5. doi: 10.1186/cc2854. Epub 2004 May 7.


The importance of chest wall elastance in characterizing acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome patients and in setting mechanical ventilation is increasingly recognized. Nearly 30% of patients admitted to a general intensive care unit have an abnormal high intra-abdominal pressure (due to ascites, bowel edema, ileus), which leads to an increase in the chest wall elastance. At a given applied airway pressure, the pleural pressure increases according to (in the static condition) the equation: pleural pressure = airway pressure x (chest wall elastance/total respiratory system elastance). Consequently, for a given applied pressure, the increase in pleural pressure implies a decrease in transpulmonary pressure (airway pressure - pleural pressure), which is the distending force of the lung, implies a decrease of the strain and of ventilator-induced lung injury, implies the need to use a higher airway pressure during the recruitment maneuvers to reach a sufficient transpulmonary opening pressure, implies hemodynamic risk due to the reductions in venous return and heart size, and implies a possible increase of lung edema, partially due to the reduced edema clearance. It is always important in the most critically ill patients to assess the intra-abdominal pressure and the chest wall elastance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lung Compliance / physiology*
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy
  • Thoracic Wall / physiopathology*