A simple automated method for measuring pressure-volume curves during mechanical ventilation

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Jan;159(1):275-82. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.159.1.9802082.


Measurement of respiratory compliance is advocated for assessing the severity of acute respiratory failure (ARF). Recently, the administration of an automated constant flow of 15 L/min was proposed as a method easier to implement at the bedside than supersyringe or inspiratory occlusions methods. However, pressure-volume (P-V) curves were shifted to the right because of the resistive properties of the respiratory system. The aim of this study was to compare the P-V curves obtained using two constant flows-3 and 9 L/min-during volume-controlled mechanical ventilation with those obtained with the supersyringe and the inspiratory occlusions methods. Fourteen paralyzed patients with ARF were studied. The supersyringe and the inspiratory occlusions methods were performed according to usual recommendations. The new automated method was performed during volume-controlled mechanical ventilation by setting the inspiratory:expiratory ratio at 80%, the respiratory frequency at 5 breaths/min, and the tidal volume at 500 or 1,500 ml. These peculiar ventilatory settings were equivalent to administering a constant flow of 3 or 9 L/min during a 9.6-s inspiration. Esophageal and airway pressures were recorded. P-V curves obtained by the 3-L/min constant-flow method were identical to those obtained by the reference methods, whereas the P-V curve obtained by the 9-L/min constant flow was slightly shifted to the right. The slopes of the P-V curves and the lower inflection points were not different between all methods, indicating that the resistive component induced by administering a constant flow equal to or less than 9 L/min is not of clinical relevance. Because the 3-L/min constant-flow method is not artifacted by the resistive properties of the respiratory system and does not require any other equipment than a ventilator, it is an easy-to-implement, inexpensive, safe, and reliable method for measuring the thoracopulmonary P-V curve at the bedside.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Airway Resistance / physiology
  • Automation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements / instrumentation
  • Lung Volume Measurements / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pressure
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology*
  • Syringes