A Comprehensive Review of Prone Position in ARDS

Richard H Kallet
Respiratory Care 2015, 60 (11): 1660-87
Prone position (PP) has been used since the 1970s to treat severe hypoxemia in patients with ARDS because of its effectiveness at improving gas exchange. Compared with the supine position (SP), placing patients in PP effects a more even tidal volume distribution, in part, by reversing the vertical pleural pressure gradient, which becomes more negative in the dorsal regions. PP also improves resting lung volume in the dorsocaudal regions by reducing the superimposed pressure of both the heart and the abdomen. In contrast, pulmonary perfusion remains preferentially distributed to the dorsal lung regions, thus improving overall alveolar ventilation/perfusion relationships. Moreover, the larger tissue mass suspended from a wider dorsal chest wall effects a more homogeneous distribution of pleural pressures throughout the lung that reduces abnormal strain and stress development. This is believed to ameliorate the severity or development of ventilator-induced lung injury and may partly explain why PP reduces mortality in severe ARDS. Over 40 years of clinical trials have consistently reported improved oxygenation in approximately 70% of subjects with ARDS. Early initiation of PP is more likely to improve oxygenation than initiation during the subacute phase. Maximal oxygenation improvement occurs over a wide time frame ranging from several hours to several days. Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials suggest that PP provides a survival advantage only in patients with relatively severe ARDS (PaO2 /FIO2 < 150 mm Hg). Moreover, survival is enhanced when patients are managed with a smaller tidal volume (≤ 8 mL/kg), higher PEEP (10-13 cm H2O), and longer duration of PP sessions (> 10-12 h/session). Combining adjunctive therapies (high PEEP, recruitment maneuvers, and inhaled vasodilators) with PP has an additive effect in improving oxygenation and may be particularly helpful in stabilizing gas exchange in very severe ARDS.

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