Background: The inflammatory influence of prolonged mechanical ventilation in uninjured lungs remains a matter of controversy and largely unexplored in humans. The authors investigated pulmonary inflammation by using exhaled breath condensate (EBC) in mechanically ventilated, brain-injured patients in the absence of acute lung injury or sepsis and explored the potential influence of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP).
Methods: Inflammatory EBC markers were assessed in 27 mechanically ventilated, brain-injured patients with neither acute lung injury nor sepsis and in 12 healthy and 8 brain-injured control subjects. Patients were ventilated with 8 ml/kg during zero end-expiratory pressure (ZEEP group, n = 12) or 8 cm H(2)O PEEP (PEEP group, n = 15). EBC was collected on days 1, 3, and 5 of mechanical ventilation to measure pH; interleukins (IL)-10, 1β, 6, 8, and 12p70; and tumor necrosis factor-α.
Results: EBC pH was lower, whereas IL-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α were greater in both patient groups compared with either control group; IL-6 was higher, whereas IL-10 and IL-12p70 were sporadically higher than in healthy control subjects; no differences were noted between the two patient groups, except for IL-10, which decreased by day 5 during PEEP. Leukocytes, soluble IL-6, and soluble triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-1 in blood were constantly higher during zero end-expiratory pressure; EBC cytokines appeared mostly related to soluble IL-8 and inversely related to soluble triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-1.
Conclusions: In brain-injured, mechanically ventilated patients with neither acute lung injury nor sepsis, EBC markers appear to indicate the presence of subtle pulmonary inflammation that is mostly unaffected by PEEP. There is evidence for a systemic inflammatory response, especially in patients during zero end-expiratory pressure.