Building on the Shoulders of Giants: Is the use of Early Spontaneous Ventilation in the Setting of Severe Diffuse Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Actually Heretical?


  • Fabrice Petitjeans
  • Cyrille Pichot
  • Marco Ghignone
  • Luc Quintin

Received Date: 03.11.2017 Accepted Date: 13.06.2018 Turk J Anaesthesiol Reanim 2018;46(5):339-347

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is not a failure of the neurological command of the ventilatory muscles or of the ventilatory muscles; it is an oxygenation defect. As positive pressure ventilation impedes the cardiac function, paralysis under general anaesthesia and controlled mandatory ventilation should be restricted to the interval needed to control the acute cardio-ventilatory distress observed upon admission into the critical care unit (CCU; "salvage therapy" during "shock state"). Current management of early severe diffuse ARDS rests on a prolonged interval of controlled mechanical ventilation with low driving pressure, paralysis (48 h, too often overextended), early proning and positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). Therefore, the time interval between arrival to the CCU and switching to spontaneous ventilation (SV) is not focused on normalizing the different factors involved in the pathophysiology of ARDS: fever, low cardiac output, systemic acidosis, peripheral shutdown (local acidosis), supine position, hypocapnia (generated by hyperpnea and tachypnea), sympathetic activation, inflammation and agitation. Then, the extended period of controlled mechanical ventilation with paralysis under general anaesthesia leads to CCU-acquired pathology, including low cardiac output, myoneuropathy, emergence delirium and nosocomial infection. The stabilization of the acute cardio-ventilatory distress should primarily itemize the pathophysiological conditions: fever control, improved micro-circulation and normalized local acidosis, ‘upright’ position, minimized hypercapnia, sympathetic de-activation (normalized sympathetic activity toward baseline levels resulting in improved micro-circulation with alpha-2 agonists administered immediately following optimized circulation and endotracheal intubation), lowered inflammation and ‘cooperative’ sedation without respiratory depression evoked by alpha-2 agonists. Normalised metabolic, circulatory and ventilatory demands will allow one to single out the oxygenation defect managed with high PEEP (diffuse recruitable ARDS) under early spontaneous ventilation (airway pressure release ventilation+SV or low-pressure support). Assuming an improved overall status, PaO2 /FiO2 ≥150-200 allows for extubation and continuous non-invasive ventilation. Such fast-tracking may avoid most of the CCU-acquired pathologies. Evidence-based demonstration is required.

Keywords: ARDS, low tidal volume, high PEEP, transpulmonary pressure, controlled mechanical ventilation, spontaneous breathing, pressure support, APRV, cooperative sedation, sympathetic de-activation, alpha-2 agonist, clonidine, dexmedetomidine