Should we titrate peep based on end-expiratory transpulmonary pressure?—yes
Ventilator management of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has been characterized by implementation of basic physiology principles by minimizing harmful distending pressures and preventing lung derecruitment. Such strategies have led to significant improvements in outcomes. Positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) is an important part of a lung protective strategy but there is no standardized method to set PEEP level. With widely varying types of lung injury, body habitus and pulmonary mechanics, the use of esophageal manometry has become important for personalization and optimization of mechanical ventilation in patients with ARDS. Esophageal manometry estimates pleural pressures, and can be used to differentiate the chest wall and lung (transpulmonary) contributions to the total respiratory system mechanics. Elevated pleural pressures may result in negative transpulmonary pressures at end expiration, leading to lung collapse. Measuring the esophageal pressures and adjusting PEEP to make transpulmonary pressures positive can decrease atelectasis, derecruitment of lung, and cyclical opening and closing of airways and alveoli, thus optimizing lung mechanics and oxygenation. Although there is some spatial and positional artifact, esophageal pressures in numerous animal and human studies in healthy, obese and critically ill patients appear to be a good estimate for the “effective” pleural pressure. Multiple studies have illustrated the benefit of using esophageal pressures to titrate PEEP in patients with obesity and with ARDS. Esophageal pressure monitoring provides a window into the unique physiology of a patient and helps improve clinical decision making at the bedside.