Background: In the acute respiratory distress syndrome potentially recruitable lung volume is currently discussed. (3)He-magnetic resonance imaging ((3)He-MRI) offers the possibility to visualize alveolar recruitment directly.
Methods: With the approval of the state animal care committee, unilateral lung damage was induced in seven anesthetized pigs by saline lavage of the right lungs. The left lung served as an intraindividual control (healthy lung). Unilateral lung damage was confirmed by conventional proton MRI and spiral-CT scanning. The total aerated lung volume was determined both at a positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 0 and 10 mbar from three-dimensionally reconstructed (3)He images, both for healthy and damaged lungs. The fractional increase of aerated volume in damaged and healthy lungs, followed by a PEEP increase from 0 to 10 mbar, was compared.
Results: Aerated gas space was visualized with a high spatial resolution in the three-dimensionally reconstructed (3)He-MR images, and aeration defects in the lavaged lung matched the regional distribution of atelectasis in proton MRI. After recruitment and PEEP increase, the aerated volume increased significantly both in healthy lungs from 415 ml [270-445] (median [min-max]) to 481 ml [347-523] and in lavaged lungs from 264 ml [71-424] to 424 ml [129-520]. The fractional increase in lavaged lungs was significantly larger than that in healthy lungs (healthy: 17% [11-38] vs. lavage: 42% [14-90] (P=0.031).
Conclusion: The (3)He-MRI signal might offer an experimental approach to discriminate atelectatic vs. poor aerated lung areas in a lung damage animal model. Our results confirm the presence of potential recruitable lung volume by either alveolar collapse or alveolar flooding, in accordance with previous reports by computed tomography.