What is the benefit of mechanical ventilation with low tidal volumes for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)?

Updated: Mar 27, 2020
  • Author: Eloise M Harman, MD; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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In an ARDS Network study, patients with ALI and ARDS were randomized to mechanical ventilation either at a tidal volume of 12 mL/kg of predicted body weight and an inspiratory pressure of 50 cm water or less or at a tidal volume of 6 mL/kg and an inspiratory pressure of 30 cm water or less; the study was stopped early after interim analysis of 861 patients demonstrated that subjects in the low-tidal-volume group had a significantly lower mortality rate (31% versus 39.8%). [35]

Whereas previous studies employing low tidal volumes allowed patients to be hypercapnic (permissive hypercapnia) and acidotic to achieve the protective ventilation goals of low tidal volume and low inspiratory airway pressure, the ARDS Network study allowed increases in respiratory rate and administration of bicarbonate to correct acidosis. This may account for the positive outcome in this study as compared with earlier studies that had failed to demonstrate a benefit.

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