Respiratory System Mechanics During Low Versus High Positive End-Expiratory Pressure in Open Abdominal Surgery: A Substudy of PROVHILO Randomized Controlled Trial

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In the 2014 PROtective Ventilation using HIgh versus LOw positive end-expiratory pressure (PROVHILO) trial, intraoperative low tidal volume ventilation with high positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP = 12 cm H2O) and lung recruitment maneuvers did not decrease postoperative pulmonary complications when compared to low PEEP (0–2 cm H2O) approach without recruitment breaths. However, effects of intraoperative PEEP on lung compliance remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that higher PEEP leads to a dominance of intratidal overdistension, whereas lower PEEP results in intratidal recruitment/derecruitment (R/D). To test our hypothesis, we used the volume-dependent elastance index %E2, a respiratory parameter that allows for noninvasive and radiation-free assessment of dominant overdistension and intratidal R/D. We compared the incidence of intratidal R/D, linear expansion, and overdistension by means of %E2 in a subset of the PROVHILO cohort.


In 36 patients from 2 participating centers of the PROVHILO trial, we calculated respiratory system elastance (E), resistance (R), and %E2, a surrogate parameter for intratidal overdistension (%E2 > 30%) and R/D (%E2 < 0%). To test the main hypothesis, we compared the incidence of intratidal overdistension (primary end point) and R/D in higher and lower PEEP groups, as measured by %E2.


E was increased in the lower compared to higher PEEP group (18.6 [16…22] vs 13.4 [11.0…17.0] cm H2O·L−1; P < .01). %E2 was reduced in the lower PEEP group compared to higher PEEP (−15.4 [−28.0…6.5] vs 6.2 [−0.8…14.0] %; P < .05). Intratidal R/D was increased in the lower PEEP group (61% vs 22%; P = .037). The incidence of intratidal overdistension did not differ significantly between groups (6%).


During mechanical ventilation with protective tidal volumes in patients undergoing open abdominal surgery, lung recruitment followed by PEEP of 12 cm H2O decreased the incidence of intratidal R/D and did not worsen overdistension, when compared to PEEP ≤2 cm H2O.

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