Advanced respiratory mechanics assessment in mechanically ventilated obese and non-obese patients with or without acute respiratory distress syndrome

Crit Care. 2023 Sep 4;27(1):343. doi: 10.1186/s13054-023-04623-2.


Background: Respiratory mechanics is a key element to monitor mechanically ventilated patients and guide ventilator settings. Besides the usual basic assessments, some more complex explorations may allow to better characterize patients' respiratory mechanics and individualize ventilation strategies. These advanced respiratory mechanics assessments including esophageal pressure measurements and complete airway closure detection may be particularly relevant in critically ill obese patients. This study aimed to comprehensively assess respiratory mechanics in obese and non-obese ICU patients with or without ARDS and evaluate the contribution of advanced respiratory mechanics assessments compared to basic assessments in these patients.

Methods: All intubated patients admitted in two ICUs for any cause were prospectively included. Gas exchange and respiratory mechanics including esophageal pressure and end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) measurements and low-flow insufflation to detect complete airway closure were assessed in standardized conditions (tidal volume of 6 mL kg-1 predicted body weight (PBW), positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 5 cmH2O) within 24 h after intubation.

Results: Among the 149 analyzed patients, 52 (34.9%) were obese and 90 (60.4%) had ARDS (65.4% and 57.8% of obese and non-obese patients, respectively, p = 0.385). A complete airway closure was found in 23.5% of the patients. It was more frequent in obese than in non-obese patients (40.4% vs 14.4%, p < 0.001) and in ARDS than in non-ARDS patients (30% vs. 13.6%, p = 0.029). Respiratory system and lung compliances and EELV/PBW were similarly decreased in obese patients without ARDS and obese or non-obese patients with ARDS. Chest wall compliance was not impacted by obesity or ARDS, but end-expiratory esophageal pressure was higher in obese than in non-obese patients. Chest wall contribution to respiratory system compliance differed widely between patients but was not predictable by their general characteristics.

Conclusions: Most respiratory mechanics features are similar in obese non-ARDS and non-obese ARDS patients, but end-expiratory esophageal pressure is higher in obese patients. A complete airway closure can be found in around 25% of critically ill patients ventilated with a PEEP of 5 cmH2O. Advanced explorations may allow to better characterize individual respiratory mechanics and adjust ventilation strategies in some patients. Trial registration NCT03420417 (February 5, 2018).

Keywords: Acute lung injury; Airway closure; Chest wall mechanic; Esophageal pressure; Mechanical ventilation; Pleural pressure.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Critical Illness*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / complications
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / therapy
  • Respiratory Mechanics

Associated data