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The place of positive end expiratory pressure in ventilator-induced lung injury generation.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Describe the rationale for concern and accumulating pathophysiologic evidence regarding the adverse effects of high-level positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) on excessive mechanical stress and ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI).

RECENT FINDINGS: Although the inclusion of PEEP in numerical estimates of mechanical power may be theoretically debated, its potential to increase stress, strain, and mean airway pressure are not. Recent laboratory data in a variety of animal models demonstrate that higher levels of PEEP coupled with additional fluids needed to offset its impediment of hemodynamic function are associated with increased VILI. Moreover, counteracting end-tidal hyperinflation by external chest wall pressure may paradoxically improve respiratory mechanics, indicating that lower PEEP helps protect the small 'baby lung' of advanced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

SUMMARY: The potentially adverse effects of PEEP on VILI can be considered in three broad categories. First, the contribution of PEEP to total mechanical energy expressed through mechanical power, raised mean airway pressure, and end-tidal hyperinflation; second, the hemodynamic consequences of altered cardiac loading, heightened pulmonary vascular stress and total lung water; and third, the ventilatory consequences of compromised carbon dioxide eliminating efficiency. Minimizing ventilation demands, optimized body positioning and care to avoid unnecessary PEEP are central to lung protection in all stages of ARDS.

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