Purpose of review: Mechanical ventilation is a common intervention provided by pediatric intensivists. This fact notwithstanding, the management of mechanical ventilation in pediatrics is largely guided by a few pediatric trials along with careful interpretation and application of adult data.
Recent findings: A low tidal volume, pressure limited approach to mechanical ventilation as established by the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Network investigators, has become the prevailing practice in pediatric intensive care. Studies by these investigators suggest that high positive end expiratory pressure and recruitment maneuvers are not uniformly beneficial. High frequency oscillatory ventilation continues to be evaluated in an attempt to provide 'open lung' ventilation. Airway pressure release ventilation is a newer mode of ventilation that may combine the 'open lung' approach with spontaneous breathing. Prone positioning was demonstrated in a recent pediatric trial to have no effect on outcome, while calfactant was found to potentially improve outcomes in pediatric acute respiratory distress syndrome. Ventilator weaning protocols may not be as useful in pediatrics as in adults. Systemic corticosteroids decrease the incidence of post extubation stridor and may reduce reintubation rates.
Summary: Mechanical ventilation with pressure limitation and low tidal volumes has become customary in pediatric intensive care units, and this lung protective approach will continue into the foreseeable future. Further investigation is warranted regarding use of high frequency oscillatory ventilation, airway pressure release ventilation, and surfactant to assist pediatric intensivists in application of these therapies.