Effects of patient positioning on respiratory mechanics in mechanically ventilated ICU patients
Changes in the body position of patients receiving mechanical ventilation in intensive care unit are frequent. Contrary to healthy humans, little data has explored the physiological impact of position on respiratory mechanics. The objective of present paper is to review the available data on the effect of changing body position on respiratory mechanics in ICU patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Supine position (lying flat) or lateral position do not seem beneficial for critically ill patients in terms of respiratory mechanics. The sitting position (with thorax angulation >30° from the horizontal plane) is associated with improvement of functional residual capacity (FRC), oxygenation and reduction of work of breathing. There is a critical angle of inclination in the seated position above which the increase in abdominal pressure contributes to increase chest wall elastance and offset the increase in FRC. The impact of prone position on respiratory mechanics is complex, but the increase in chest wall elastance is a central mechanism. To sum up, both sitting and prone positions provides beneficial impact on respiratory mechanics of mechanically ventilated patients as compared to supine position.