Background: Alveolar fibrin deposition is a hallmark of acute lung injury, resulting from activation of coagulation and inhibition of fibrinolysis. Previous studies have shown that mechanical ventilation with high tidal volumes may aggravate lung injury in patients with sepsis and acute lung injury. The authors sought to determine the effects of mechanical ventilation on the alveolar hemostatic balance in patients without preexistent lung injury.
Methods: Patients scheduled for an elective surgical procedure (lasting > or = 5 h) were randomly assigned to mechanical ventilation with either higher tidal volumes of 12 ml/kg ideal body weight and no positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) or lower tidal volumes of 6 ml/kg and 10 cm H2O PEEP. After induction of anesthesia and 5 h later bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and blood samples were obtained, and markers of coagulation and fibrinolysis were measured.
Results: In contrast to mechanical ventilation with lower tidal volumes and PEEP (n = 21), the use of higher tidal volumes without PEEP (n = 19) caused activation of bronchoalveolar coagulation, as reflected by a marked increase in thrombin-antithrombin complexes, soluble tissue factor, and factor VIIa after 5 h of mechanical ventilation. Mechanical ventilation with higher tidal volumes without PEEP caused an increase in soluble thrombomodulin in lavage fluids and lower levels of bronchoalveolar activated protein C in comparison with lower tidal volumes and PEEP. Bronchoalveolar fibrinolytic activity did not change by either ventilation strategy.
Conclusions: Mechanical ventilation with higher tidal volumes and no PEEP promotes procoagulant changes, which are largely prevented by the use of lower tidal volumes and PEEP.