Should mechanical ventilation be guided by esophageal pressure measurements?

Maria Plataki, Rolf D. Hubmayr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Despite the well recognized role of mechanical ventilation in lung injury, appropriate surrogate markers to guide titration of ventilator settings remain elusive. One would like to strike a balance between protecting aerated units from overdistension while recruiting unstable units, thereby reducing tissue damage associated with their cyclic recruitment and derecruitment. To do so requires some estimate of the topographical distribution of parenchymal stress and strain. Recent findings: Recent studies have highlighted the importance of chest wall recoil and its effect on pleural pressure (Ppl) in determining lung stress. Although esophageal pressure (Pes) has traditionally been used to measure the average Ppl in normal upright patients, in recumbent acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome patients Pes-based estimates of Ppl are subject to untestable assumptions. Nevertheless, Pes measurements in recumbent patients with injured lungs strongly suggest that Ppl over dependent parts of the lung can exceed airway pressure by substantial amounts. Moreover, results of a pilot study in which Pes was used to titrate positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) suggest clinical benefit. Summary: Notwithstanding its theoretical limitations, esophageal manometry has shown promise in PEEP titration and deserves further evaluation in a larger trial on patients with injured lungs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-280
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Critical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • esophageal pressure
  • lung stress
  • positive end-expiratory pressure
  • ventilator-induced lung injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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