Tidal expiratory flow limitation (tidal-EFL) is not completely avoidable by applying positive end-expiratory pressure and may cause respiratory and hemodynamic complications in ventilated patients with lungs prone to collapse. During spontaneous breathing, expiratory diaphragmatic contraction counteracts tidal-EFL. We hypothesized that during both spontaneous breathing and controlled mechanical ventilation, external expiratory resistances reduce tidal-EFL.
To assess whether external expiratory resistances 1. Affect expiratory diaphragmatic contraction during spontaneous breathing; 2. Reduce expiratory flow and make lung compartments more homogeneous with more similar expiratory time constants; 3. Reduce tidal atelectasis, preventing hyperinflation.
Three positive end-expiratory pressure levels and four external expiratory resistances were tested in 10 pigs after lung lavage. We analyzed expiratory diaphragmatic electric activity and respiratory mechanics. Based on computed tomography scans, four lung compartments – not (atelectasis), poorly, normally and hyper inflated – were defined.
Consequently to additional external expiratory resistances, and mainly in lungs prone to collapse (at low positive end-expiratory pressure), 1. The expiratory transdiaphragmatic pressure decreased during spontaneous breathing by more than 10%; 2. Expiratory flow was reduced and the expiratory time constants became more homogeneous. 3. The amount of atelectasis at end-expiration decreased from 24% to 16% during spontaneous breathing and from 32% to 18% during controlled mechanical ventilation, without increasing hyperinflation.
The expiratory modulation induced by external expiratory resistances preserves the positive effects of the expiratory brake while minimizing expiratory diaphragmatic contraction. External expiratory resistances optimize lung mechanics and limit tidal-EFL and tidal atelectasis, without increasing hyperinflation.