Higher versus Lower Positive End-Expiratory Pressures in Patients with the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

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Abstract

BACKGROUND Most patients requiring mechanical ventilation for acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) receive positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 5 to 12 cm of water. Higher PEEP levels may improve oxygenation and reduce ventilator-induced lung injury but may also cause circulatory depression and lung injury from overdistention. We conducted this trial to compare the effects of higher and lower PEEP levels on clinical outcomes in these patients. METHODS We randomly assigned 549 patients with acute lung injury and ARDS to receive mechanical ventilation with either lower or higher PEEP levels, which were set according to different tables of predetermined combinations of PEEP and fraction of inspired oxygen. RESULTS Mean (+/-SD) PEEP values on days 1 through 4 were 8.3+/-3.2 cm of water in the lower-PEEP group and 13.2+/-3.5 cm of water in the higher-PEEP group (P

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