Review of Anesthesia Versus Intensive Care Unit Ventilators and Ventilatory Strategies: COVID-19 Patient Management Implications

AANA J. 2021 Feb;89(1):62-69.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) respiratory illness has increased the amount of people needing airway rescue and the support of mechanical ventilators. In doing so, the pandemic has increased the demand of healthcare professionals to manage these critically ill individuals. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), who are trained experts in airway management and mechanical ventilation with experience in intensive care units (ICUs), rise to this challenge. However, many CRNAs may be unfamiliar with advancements in critical care ventilators. The purpose of this review is to provide a resource for CRNAs returning to the ICU to manage patients requiring invasive mechanical ventilation. The most common ventilator modes found in anesthesia machine ventilators and ICU ventilators are reviewed, as are the lung-protective ventilation strategies, including positive end-expiratory pressure, used to manage patients with COVID-19-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome. Adjuncts to mechanical ventilation, recruitment maneuvers, prone positioning, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation are also reviewed. More research is needed concerning the management of COVID-19-infected patients, and CRNAs must become familiar with their ICU units' individual ventilator machine, but this brief review provides a good place to start for those returning to the ICU.

Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome; COVID-19; anesthesia ventilator; intensive care unit ventilator; ventilator modes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / standards*
  • Anesthesia / statistics & numerical data*
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Pandemics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial / standards*
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Ventilators, Mechanical / standards*
  • Ventilators, Mechanical / statistics & numerical data