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ObjectivesClinical observation suggests that early acute respiratory distress syndrome induced by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 may be "atypical" due to a discrepancy between a relatively unaffected static respiratory system compliance and a significant hypoxemia. This would imply an "atypical" response to the positive end-expiratory pressure.DesignSingle-center, unblinded, crossover study.SettingICU of Bari Policlinico Academic Hospital (Italy), dedicated to care patients with confirmed diagnosis of novel coronavirus disease 2019.PatientsEight patients with early severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 acute respiratory distress syndrome and static respiratory compliance higher than or equal to 50 mL/cm H2O.InterventionsWe compared a "lower" and a "higher" positive end-expiratory pressure approach, respectively, according to the intervention arms of the acute respiratory distress syndrome network and the positive end-expiratory pressure setting in adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome studies.Measurements and main resultsPatients were ventilated with the acute respiratory distress syndrome network and, subsequently, with the ExPress protocol. After 1 hour of ventilation, for each protocol, we recorded arterial blood gas, respiratory mechanics, alveolar recruitment, and hemodynamic variables. Comparisons were performed with analysis of variance for repeated measures or Friedman test as appropriate. Positive end-expiratory pressure was increased from 9 ± 3.5 to 17.7 ± 1.7 cm H2O (p < 0.01). Alveolar recruitment was 450 ± 111 mL. Static respiratory system compliance decreased from 58.3 ± 7.6 mL/cm H2O to 47.4 ± 14.5 mL/cm H2O (p = 0.018) and the "stress index" increased from 0.97 ± 0.03 to 1.22 ± 0.07 (p < 0.001). The PaO2/FIO2 ratio increased from 131 ± 22 to 207 ± 41 (p < 0.001), and the PaCO2 increased from 45.9 ± 12.7 to 49.8 ± 13.2 mm Hg (p < 0.001). The cardiac index went from 3.6 ± 0.4 to 2.9 ± 0.6 L/min/m (p = 0.01).ConclusionsOur data suggest that the "higher" positive end-expiratory pressure approach in patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 acute respiratory distress syndrome and high compliance improves oxygenation and lung aeration but may result in alveolar hyperinflation and hemodynamic alterations.

Original publication





Critical care medicine

Publication Date





e1332 - e1336


Dipartimento dell'Emergenza e Trapianti d'Organo (DETO), Sezione di Anestesiologia e Rianimazione, Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro," Bari, Italy.


Humans, Blood Gas Analysis, Positive-Pressure Respiration, Cross-Over Studies, Respiratory Mechanics, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2