Background and objective: For the treatment of patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury bedside measurements of regional lung ventilation should be considered for optimizing ventilatory settings. The aim was to investigate the effect of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) on regional ventilation in mechanically ventilated patients at the bedside by electrical impedance tomography.
Methods: Eight mechanically ventilated patients were included in the study. PEEP levels were increased from 0 to 5, 10, 15 mbar and back to 0 mbar. Regional ventilation in 912 regions of the thorax was investigated at each PEEP by electrical impedance tomography. The obtained regions were divided in four groups: none (none and poorly ventilated regions including chest wall and mediastinum), bad, moderate and well-ventilated regions.
Results: Increasing the PEEP stepwise from 0 to 15 mbar decreased the non-ventilated regions (none: 540 regions at PEEP 0 and 406 regions at PEEP 15). In contrast, the other regions increased (bad: 316 regions at PEEP 0 and 380 regions at PEEP 15; moderate: 40 regions at PEEP 0 and 100 regions at PEEP 15; well: 0 region at PEEP 0 and 34 regions at PEEP 15 (median values)) indicating an improvement of regional ventilation.
Conclusions: Increasing PEEP in mechanically ventilated patients reduces none ventilated regions (atelectasis). Furthermore, it leads to a shift from none and bad ventilated regions to moderately and well-ventilated regions. Electrical impedance tomography is a bedside technique and might be an alternative to computed tomography scan to assess aerated lung regions.