How to set the ventilator in asthma

D Georgopoulos, E Kondili, G Prinianakis
Monaldi Archives for Chest Disease 2000, 55 (1): 74-83
All patients with bronchial asthma are at risk of developing severe episodes of airway narrowing that do not respond to the usual medical treatment, a life-threatening situation referred to as status asthmaticus. In some cases, ventilatory failure occurs, necessitating mechanical ventilation to support gas exchange and to unload the respiratory muscles, giving time for other therapeutic interventions to improve the functional status of the patient. Mechanical ventilatory support poses additional risks to the patients, due to interaction between the pathophysiology of the disease and the process of mechanical ventilation. Dynamic hyperinflation, a cardinal feature of the pathophysiology, may cause serious complications during mechanical ventilation. Setting the ventilator, such as to minimize the dynamic hyperinflation, is a key point in the management of mechanically ventilated patients with status asthmaticus. Strategies to reduce dynamic hyperinflation, such as hypoventilation (permissive hypercapnia), increase of expiratory time and promotion of patient-ventilator synchrony are mandatory and significantly decrease the morbidity and mortality of the disease. Continuous monitoring of the effectiveness of these strategies, as well as the functional status of the patient, is crucial in order to limit complications associated with mechanical ventilation and to identify the time that weaning can start.

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