Ventilator-induced lung injury and lung mechanics
Mechanical ventilation applies physical stresses to the tissues of the lung and thus may give rise to ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI), particular in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The most dire consequences of VILI result from injury to the blood-gas barrier. This allows plasma-derived fluid and proteins to leak into the airspaces where they flood some alveolar regions, while interfering with the functioning of pulmonary surfactant in those regions that remain open. These effects are reflected in commensurately increased values of dynamic lung elastance (EL), a quantity that in principle is readily measured at the bedside. Recent mathematical/computational modeling studies have shown that the way in which EL varies as a function of both time and positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) reflects the nature and degree of lung injury, and can even be used to infer the separate contributions of volutrauma and atelectrauma to VILI. Interrogating such models for minimally injurious regimens of mechanical ventilation that apply to a particular lung may thus lead to personalized approaches to the ventilatory management of ARDS.