Mathematical models are required to describe pulmonary gas exchange. The challenge remains to find models which are complex enough to describe physiology and simple enough for clinical practice. This study aimed at finding the necessary 'minimal' modeling complexity to represent the gas exchange of both oxygen and carbon dioxide. Three models of varying complexity were compared for their ability to fit measured data from intensive care patients and to provide adequate description of patients' gas exchange abnormalities. Pairwise F-tests showed that a two parameter model provided superior fit to patient data compared to a shunt only model (p<0.001), and that a three parameter model provided superior fit compared to the two parameter model (p<0.1). The three parameter model describes larger ranges of ventilation to perfusion ratios than the two parameter model, and is identifiable from data routinely available in clinical practice.
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