Applied PEEP during pressure support reduces the inspiratory threshold load of intrinsic PEEP

N R MacIntyre, K C Cheng, R McConnell
Chest 1997, 111 (1): 188-93

OBJECTIVES: Mechanical ventilation in patients with obstructive airway disease (OAD) is associated with the development of dynamic hyperinflation and intrinsic positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEPi). One of the effects of this form of PEEPi is to act as an inspiratory threshold load that can produce ineffective breath triggering, dyspnea, and muscle fatigue. Recently it has been shown that applying PEEP in the ventilator circuit can reduce this imposed triggering load. We wished to investigate this further by studying patients with OAD being weaned with pressure support (PS) ventilation. Our first objective was to determine the prevalence and magnitude of this form of PEEPi in OAD patients who were clinically judged to be capable of triggering mechanical ventilatory breaths. Our second objective was to attempt to reduce the triggering load by applying circuit PEEP and then observe the response of patient-ventilator interactions during the patient-triggered, pressure-limited PS breath.

DESIGN: Thirteen random patients with OAD who were receiving PS ventilation were studied by measuring airway pressures, airway gas flow, baseline esophageal pressure, esophageal pressure time products (PTP), and esophageal pressure changes before ventilator gas delivery began (delta Pes taken to represent PEEPi). Measurements were made at baseline and after stepwise increases in circuit PEEP up to the PEEPi.

RESULTS: We found measurable PEEPi in all patients (average +/- SD of 9.54 +/- 4.3 cm H2O) and it was > 10 cm H2O in seven patients. As would be predicted, we observed progressive reductions in PEEPi as applied PEEP was given. We also observed that the component of patient effort (PTP) related to overcoming PEEPi also decreased, but the PTP related to tidal volume (VT) did not. The VT associated with the set PS thus did not change with application of PEEP, nor did the breathing frequency.

CONCLUSION: PEEPi is common in OAD patients receiving mechanical ventilatory support. The imposed triggering load from PEEPi can be offset to large extent by circuit PEEP approaching the baseline PEEPi. Although total patient effort substantially falls with applied PEEP, the patient effort that combine with PS to effect VT does not.

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