JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Early severe acute respiratory distress syndrome: What's going on? Part I: pathophysiology

Fabrice Petitjeans, Cyrille Pichot, Marco Ghignone, Luc Quintin
Anaesthesiology Intensive Therapy 2016, 48 (5): 314-338
28000204
Severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS, PaO₂/FiO₂ < 100 on PEEP ≥ 5 cm H₂O) is treated using controlled mechanical ventilation (CMV), recently combined with muscle relaxation for 48 h and prone positioning. While the amplitude of tidal volume appears set < 6 mL kg⁻¹, the level of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) remains controversial. This overview summarizes several salient points, namely: a) ARDS is an oxygenation defect: consolidation/ difuse alveolar damage is reversed by PEEP and/or prone positioning, at least during the early phase of ARDS b) ARDS is a dynamic disease and partially iatrogenic. This implies that the management of the ventilator may be a life-saver by reducing the duration of mechanical ventilation, or detrimental by extending this duration, leading into critical care-acquired diseases. Indeed, a high PEEP (10-24 cm H₂O) appears to be a life-saver in the context of early severe diffuse ARDS; c) tidal volume and plateau pressure cannot be identical for all patients; d) the only remaining rationale for CMV and muscle relaxation is to suppress patient-ventilator asynchrony and to lower VO2, during the acute cardio-ventilatory distress. Therefore, in early severe diffuse ARDS, this review argues for a combination of a high PEEP (preferably titrated on transpulmonary pressure) with spontaneous ventilation + pressure support (or newer modes of ventilation). However, conditionalities are stringent: upfront circulatory optimization, upright positioning, lowered VO₂, lowered acidotic and hypercapnic drives, sedation without ventilatory depression and without lowered muscular tone. As these propositions require evidence-based demonstration, the accepted practice remains, in 2016, controlled mechanical ventilation, muscle relaxation, and prone position.

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