Acute Effects of Upright Position on Gas Exchange in Patients With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

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Patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have dorsal atelectasis of the lungs. This is probably caused by several mechanisms: compression on dependent lung zones, purulent secretions in alveoli, and upward shift of the diaphragm. An upright position (UP) of the patient (the whole body in a straight line at 40 to 45 degrees) can theoretically ameliorate these mechanisms. The objective was to evaluate whether there was an improvement of gas exchange during UP of ARDS patients and to evaluate the hemodynamic effects. A prospective interventional study was performed in the surgical and medical ICUs and the burn unit of the Ghent University Hospital, a tertiary care center. Included were ARDS patients with onset of ARDS within 48 hours before start of the study. Patients were excluded when there was hemodynamic instability or when the PaO2/FiO2 ratio deteriorated during the 2 hours preceding UP. After a 2-hour observation period in a semirecumbent position, patients were put in UP for 12 hours. Respiration and hemodynamic data were recorded at the start and end of the 2-hour observation period and after 1, 4, and 12 hours in UP. Eighteen patients were included in the study. There was a significant increase of the PaO2/FiO2 ratio during UP (P < .001). Except for the need for volume resuscitation in 5 patients (27.8%), there was no significant change in the hemodynamic profile of the patients. Upright positioning of patients with ARDS, a relatively simple maneuver, resulted in an improvement of gas exchange and was tolerated hemodynamically relatively well during a 12-hour observation period.

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