Lung- and Diaphragm-Protective Ventilation

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020 Oct 1;202(7):950-961. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202003-0655CP.


Mechanical ventilation can cause acute diaphragm atrophy and injury, and this is associated with poor clinical outcomes. Although the importance and impact of lung-protective ventilation is widely appreciated and well established, the concept of diaphragm-protective ventilation has recently emerged as a potential complementary therapeutic strategy. This Perspective, developed from discussions at a meeting of international experts convened by PLUG (the Pleural Pressure Working Group) of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, outlines a conceptual framework for an integrated lung- and diaphragm-protective approach to mechanical ventilation on the basis of growing evidence about mechanisms of injury. We propose targets for diaphragm protection based on respiratory effort and patient-ventilator synchrony. The potential for conflict between diaphragm protection and lung protection under certain conditions is discussed; we emphasize that when conflicts arise, lung protection must be prioritized over diaphragm protection. Monitoring respiratory effort is essential to concomitantly protect both the diaphragm and the lung during mechanical ventilation. To implement lung- and diaphragm-protective ventilation, new approaches to monitoring, to setting the ventilator, and to titrating sedation will be required. Adjunctive interventions, including extracorporeal life support techniques, phrenic nerve stimulation, and clinical decision-support systems, may also play an important role in selected patients in the future. Evaluating the clinical impact of this new paradigm will be challenging, owing to the complexity of the intervention. The concept of lung- and diaphragm-protective ventilation presents a new opportunity to potentially improve clinical outcomes for critically ill patients.

Keywords: artificial respiration; lung injury; mechanical ventilation; myotrauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consensus
  • Critical Care
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Diaphragm / injuries*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Humans
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology
  • Muscular Atrophy / prevention & control*
  • Phrenic Nerve
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury / etiology
  • Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury / prevention & control*