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Original Research: CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE |

Physiologic Response to Changing Positive End-Expiratory Pressure During Neurally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist in Sedated, Critically Ill Adults

Christina Passath, MD; Jukka Takala, MD, PhD; Daniel Tuchscherer; Stephan M. Jakob, MD, PhD; Christer Sinderby, PhD; Lukas Brander, MD
Author and Funding Information

From the Department of Intensive Care Medicine (Drs Passath, Takala, Tuchscherer, Jakob, Sinderby, and Brander), Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, and the University of Bern (Drs Passath, Takala, Jakob, Sinderby, and Brander, and Mr Tuchscherer), Bern, Switzerland; the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine (Dr Sinderby), University of Toronto, Department of Critical Care Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital, and the Keenan Research Center at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital (Dr Sinderby), Toronto, ON, Canada.

Correspondence to: Lukas Brander, MD, Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Bern University Hospital, Inselspital, 3010 Bern, Switzerland; e-mail: lukas.brander@insel.ch


Funding/Support: The study was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation [3200B0-113478/1] and from the Stiftung für die Forschung in Anästhesiologie und Intensivmedizin, Bern [18/2006] awarded to Lukas Brander.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2010;138(3):578-587. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0286
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Background:  Neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NAVA) delivers airway pressure (Paw) in proportion to neural inspiratory drive as reflected by electrical activity of the diaphragm (EAdi). Changing positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) impacts respiratory muscle load and function and, hence, EAdi. We aimed to evaluate how PEEP affects the breathing pattern and neuroventilatory efficiency during NAVA.

Methods:  In 20 adult patients, adequate assist (NAVAal) was first identified based on Paw and tidal volume (Vt) responses to systematic increases in NAVA level while using preset PEEP (PEEPbl). Thereafter, using NAVAal, PEEP was increased to 20 cm water (H2O) (PEEPhigh) and then lowered stepwise to 1 cm H2O (PEEP1). EAdi, Paw, and Vt were recorded.

Results:  Median NAVAal was 2.7 (interquartile range, 2.3-3.5) cm H2O/μV and was similar to NAVAal identified post hoc by 17 independent physicians (2.5 [2.0-3.4] cm H2O/μV; P = NS). Reducing PEEPhigh to PEEP1 increased inspiratory EAdi by 34% (2-67; P = .046) and was associated with an increase in mean Paw above PEEP from 8.5 (6.7-11.4) cm H2O to 12.2 (8.8-16.7) cm H2O (P = .008), whereas Vt and respiratory rate remained unchanged. The response pattern in Vt/EAdi, indicating changes in neuroventilatory efficiency, differed among patients. Tidal breathing occurred at the lowest EAdi cost in seven patients with PEEP1 or half PEEPbl, in six patients with PEEPbl, and in seven patients with PEEPhigh.

Conclusions:  During NAVAal, increasing PEEP reduces respiratory drive. Patients adapt their neuroventilatory efficiency such that the individual ventilatory pattern is preserved over a wide range of PEEP levels. Monitoring Vt/EAdi during PEEP changes allows identification of a PEEP level at which tidal breathing occurs at minimal EAdi cost.

Trial registration:  clinicaltrials.gov; Identifier: NCT00529347

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