Introduction: Cyclic recruitment-derecruitment and overdistension contribute to ventilator-induced lung injury. Tidal volume (Vt) may influence both, cyclic recruitment-derecruitment and overdistension. The goal of this study was to determine if decreasing Vt from 6 to 4 ml/kg reduces cyclic recruitment-derecruitment and hyperinflation, and if it is possible to avoid severe hypercapnia.
Methods: Patients with pulmonary acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) were included in a crossover study with two Vt levels: 6 and 4 ml/kg. The protocol had two parts: one bedside and other at the CT room. To avoid severe hypercapnia in the 4 ml/kg arm, we replaced the heat and moisture exchange filter by a heated humidifier, and respiratory rate was increased to keep minute ventilation constant. Data on lung mechanics and gas exchange were taken at baseline and after 30 minutes at each Vt (bedside). Thereafter, a dynamic CT (4 images/sec for 8 sec) was taken at each Vt at a fixed transverse region between the middle and lower third of the lungs. Afterward, CT images were analyzed and cyclic recruitment-derecruitment was determined as non-aerated tissue variation between inspiration and expiration, and hyperinflation as maximal hyperinflated tissue at end-inspiration, expressed as % of lung tissue weight.
Results: We analyzed 10 patients. Decreasing Vt from 6 to 4 ml/kg consistently decreased cyclic recruitment-derecruitment from 3.6 (2.5 to 5.7) % to 2.9 (0.9 to 4.7) % (P <0.01) and end-inspiratory hyperinflation from 0.7 (0.3 to 2.2) to 0.6 (0.2 to 1.7) % (P = 0.01). No patient developed severe respiratory acidosis or severe hypercapnia when decreasing Vt to 4 ml/kg (pH 7.29 (7.21 to 7.46); PaCO2 48 (26 to 51) mmHg).
Conclusions: Decreasing Vt from 6 to 4 ml/kg reduces cyclic recruitment-derecruitment and hyperinflation. Severe respiratory acidosis may be effectively prevented by decreasing instrumental dead space and by increasing respiratory rate.