American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

We examined the hypothesis that recording multiple elastic pressure–volume (Pel/V) curves and calculating alveolar derecruitment (VDER) induced by decreasing positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) may allow determination of alveolar closing pressures, thus helping to select the optimal PEEP level. VDER measured in 16 patients with acute lung injury (ALI) was compared with the lower inflection point (LIP) and oxygenation changes. A modified automated method was used to record multiple Pel/V curves at low constant flow. PEEP was decreased in 5-cm H2O steps, from 20 or 15 cm H2O to 0 cm H2O (ZEEP). VDER was the volume loss between the curves recorded from PEEP and from ZEEP at the same Pel. Derecruitment occurred at each PEEP decrement, being spread almost uniformly over the 20/15 to 0 cm H2O range. VDER was not correlated with LIP. VDER changes correlated with PaO2 /Fi O2 changes (rho = 0.6, p = 0.02). Linear compliance at ZEEP was correlated to VDER at PEEP 15 cm H2O (rho = 0.9, p = 0.001), suggesting that compliance above LIP may reflect the amount of recruitable lung. Thus, alveolar closure in ALI occurs over a wide range of pressures, and LIP is a poor predictor of alveolar closure.

Keywords: PEEP; derecruitment; elastic pressure–volume curves; lower inflection point; acute lung injury

The lower inflection point (LIP) of the elastic pressure–volume (Pel/V) curve of the respiratory system recorded from the elastic equilibrium volume has long been used as orientation for setting the optimal positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) in patients with acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (1-3). LIP was thought to indicate the opening pressure of previously collapsed or compressed alveoli (4). Recent studies, however, show alveolar recruitment to be a complex phenomenon that cannot be fully apprehended by LIP alone (5-8). Furthermore, the shape of the Pel/V curve and the value of LIP may vary according to the end-expiratory equilibrium volume from which the curve is traced (6). Chest wall properties may also affect LIP (9, 10).

In addition, because LIP is measured on the inflation limb of the Pel/V curve after a prolonged expiration, it may detect a need for recruiting alveoli only in this particular situation. Alveolar derecruitment (VDER) induced by decreasing PEEP levels may be of greater clinical relevance. Recording the Pel/V curve and measuring VDER at each PEEP decrement may yield the range of alveolar closing pressures. Should alveolar closure occur within a narrow pressure range, analogous to a threshold, then decreasing the PEEP level stepwise would not result in substantial derecruitment until the decrement is spanning the threshold, which would produce massive derecruitment. Setting the PEEP level above the threshold would keep the lung open. This was our working hypothesis. Our alternative hypothesis was that alveolar closure would occur over a broad pressure range, so that derecruitment would increase gradually over many PEEP decrements, and no optimal PEEP level would emerge.

We used a modified automated method for fast bedside recording and analysis of multiple Pel/V curves and VDER at decremental PEEP levels. To study the relationship between LIP and the pressure range over which VDER occurred, we compared VDER to the information derived from the LIP on Pel/V curves recorded from zero end-expiratory pressure (ZEEP), and we looked for correlations linking VDER to oxygenation parameters and to compliance.


The study was done at Henri Mondor hospital in Créteil, France. Our institution's ethics committee approved the protocol. Informed consent was obtained from the patients' next of kin. During the study period, patients who fulfilled criteria for ALI and who required mechanical ventilation with a fraction of inspired oxygen (Fi O2 ) equal to or greater than 0.5 for longer than 12 h were potentially eligible. Criteria for ALI were those defined by the American-European International Consensus Conference on ARDS (11). Exclusion criteria were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, presence of a leaking chest tube, contraindication to sedation, supposed chest wall impairment, or clinical or hemodynamic instability. Supposed chest wall impairments were thoracic deformities, known or patent restrictive disease, recent thoracic or abdominal surgery, acute abdominal syndrome, and multiple trauma. Sixteen patients met our inclusion and exclusion criteria. Among them, 14 met criteria for ARDS (PaO2 /Fi O2 < 200 mm Hg). The lung injury score (LIS) was computed as described by Murray and coworkers (12). Patient characteristics are reported in Table 1.


Patient No.Age (yr)Cause of ALI/ARDSUnderlying DiseasePaO2 /Fi O2 (mm Hg)SAPS IILISDays of Mechanical VentilationDays of ALI/ARDSOutcome
155SepsisHypopituitarism262 612.75 9 9Died
239PneumoniaIdiopathic medullar aplasia  93 513.5 410Died
326PneumoniaLeukemia, aplasia 85 383.5 1 1Died
442AspirationEsophageal cancer107 283.251515Died
552Alveolar hemorrhageLeukemia, aplasia164 692.5 1 1Died
666PneumoniaIschemic cardiopathy 83 353.2514 5Died
765PneumoniaAortic stenosis 69102313 7Died
840SepsisLymphoma104 383.25 7 6Died
955PneumoniaIschemic cardiopathy115 303 3 3Died
1030Toxic epidermal necrolysisNone217 242.75 1 1Died
1139PneumoniaLeukemia 69 363.5 1 1Died
1275PneumoniaPharyngeal cancer144 563 1 1Survived
1333Alveolar hemorrhageLeukemia, aplasia189 542.25 1 1Survived
1451PneumoniaCardiopathy 70 493.25 6 5Died
1519SepsisNephrotic syndrome  79 673.75 5 5Died
1649PneumoniaNone 98 463 1 1Survived
Mean46122 493.09 5 5
SD15 58 200.4 5 4

Definition of abbreviations: ALI = acute lung injury; ARDS = acute respiratory distress syndrome; LIS = lung injury score; SAPS II = simplified acute physiology score II.

All patients received mechanical ventilation in volume-controlled mode (ServoVentilator 900C; Siemens-Elema, Lund, Sweden). Tidal volume was 6 to 8 ml/kg, respiratory rate was 18/min, inspiratory-to-total time ratio was 0.33, and postinspiratory pause-to-total time ratio was 0.05. The baseline PEEP level was 15 cm H2O in 10 patients and 20 cm H2O in 8 patients. This level was chosen in each individual patient as the highest level not associated with hemodynamic instability (defined as an arterial systolic blood pressure drop of 20 mm Hg or more) or an excessively high plateau pressure (40 cm H2O or more). Patients were supine. Sedation and neuromuscular blockade were achieved by continuous infusion. Endotracheal suctioning was performed 5 min before data collection and was not repeated during data collection unless needed. Absence of leaks in the circuit was checked during a 12-s postinspiratory pause. In five patients, esophageal pressure was measured using a balloon catheter (Marquat; Boissy Saint Léger, France) connected to the built-in ventilator pressure transducer via the auxiliary equipment port. The balloon was filled with 1 ml of air and positioned in the lower third of the esophagus. An occlusion test was performed to assess the validity of esophageal pressure measurement (13). All patients had an arterial line for blood gas sampling and blood pressure monitoring. Blood gases were measured using an ABL 520 analyzer (Radiometer, Copenhagen, Denmark).

Recording of Multiple Elastic Pel/V Curves

Multiple elastic Pel/V curves were recorded and analyzed using a modification of a method described in detail previously and in the online data supplement (2, 6, 14). The ventilator and carbon dioxide (CO2) analyzer (ServoVentilator 900C, CO2 Analyzer 930; Siemens-Elema) were connected to a personal computer. The ventilator system transducers produced signals representing pressure in the expiratory line, ventilator flow rate, and CO2 at airway opening. These signals were filtered to avoid aliasing and were converted from analog to digital at 50 Hz. The flow signal was calibrated under BTPS conditions with a 1-L syringe. Pressure was calibrated using a water manometer and CO2 using a gas mixture with a known composition.

Whereas the original method was designed for acquiring one Pel/V curve per recording session, the modification allows fully automated acquisition of multiple Pel/V curves at decreasing PEEP levels during a single continuous recording session lasting no more than 5 min. Each curve was obtained after the first expiration at a new, lower, PEEP level. Between curve recordings, patients were ventilated at the baseline PEEP level for 10 breaths, which was the highest level tolerated (Figure 1). Four or five Pel/V curves were thus obtained, starting from PEEP 15 cm H2O or 20 cm H2O and ending at ZEEP.

Analysis of Pel/V Curves

Volume changes were calculated as the integral of the flow signal. To determine whether the recording procedure disturbed CO2 exchange, CO2 elimination was calculated as the integral of flow multiplied by the CO2 concentration.

The analysis method is detailed in the online data supplement. Each Pel/V curve was analyzed using a sigmoid model (6, 14) in which each curve has three segments separated by the LIP and the upper inflection point (UIP). The segment before LIP and the segment after UIP are curvilinear and have low compliance values. The steeper segment between the LIP and the UIP has higher compliance (CLIN) and is considered linear. LIP and the UIP are defined as the points at which the statistical analysis indicates that the Pel/V curve begins to deviate from a straight line. Accordingly, LIP corresponds to the point at which the second derivative of the equation used for Pel/V curve mathematical fitting reaches its maximum value. Similarly, UIP is at the minimum value of the second derivative of the equation.

Chest wall Pel/V curves were obtained in five patients by plotting lung volume against esophageal pressure. The above-described procedure was then used to analyze chest wall Pel/V curves.

Measurement of End-expiratory Lung Volume

In each patient, a previously described method (6), further explained in Figure 1, was used to align all Pel/V curves on a common volume axis. The method assumes that lung volume returned to a similar level during the 10 breaths following each Pel/V curve recording. Hence, end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) at baseline PEEP before each prolonged expiration was taken as the reference volume and used for subsequent Pel/V curve alignment. The change in EELV induced by each PEEP decrease was measured by integrating the difference between inspiratory flow and expiratory flow measured just before and during the prolonged expiration preceding the low-flow insufflation, respectively (Figure 1). Measuring the change in EELV induced by each PEEP decrease allowed alignment of each Pel/V curve on the first curve recorded at baseline PEEP (15 or 20 cm H2O). Thus, all the Pel/V curves constituted a family of Pel/V curves aligned on a common volume axis. This volume, reached during a 6-s expiration at ZEEP, was taken as zero for the family of Pel/V curves (Figure 2).

To verify the assumption that lung volume returned to a similar level during the 10 breaths following each Pel/V curve recording, the change in EELV (ΔEELV) between the baseline (highest) PEEP and ZEEP was measured again, in each patient, after 15 min of ventilation at baseline PEEP. Fifteen minutes after the multiple Pel/V curve recording, ΔEELV was on average 69 ± 63 ml larger than ΔEELV measured at the end of the multiple Pel/V curve recording (1059 versus 990 ml). This volume difference was 6% of the ΔEELV measured 15 min after multiple Pel/V curve recording, suggesting that EELV was perhaps not fully restored during multiple Pel/V curve recording. Because this might lead to slight underestimation of derecruitment induced by the lowest PEEP steps, in each patient we corrected the last two ΔEELV measurements of the sequence for the measured volume difference in that patient (data not shown). Given that any underestimation would be greatest for the last ΔEELV measurement, we arbitrarily decided to correct the last ΔEELV by two-thirds and the next to last ΔEELV by one-third of the total volume difference.

Measurement of Intrinsic PEEP and Alveolar Derecruitment

Intrinsic PEEP (PEEPi) was measured in all patients during a 2-s end-expiratory pause after a prolonged expiration to ZEEP.

Volume derecruitment (VDER) caused by a PEEP decrement was defined for each PEEP level as the volume difference between the Pel/V curve recorded at that PEEP level and the Pel/V curve recorded at ZEEP. VDER was calculated at a Pel of 20 cm H2O (Figure 2). The difference in VDER between two PEEP levels was ΔVDER.


The patients were ventilated at the highest PEEP level used during the study (20 or 15 cm H2O), and multiple Pel/V curves were recorded at decreasing PEEP levels (15, 10, and 5 cm H2O and ZEEP) as described above. Arterial blood gases were measured 20 min after the recordings, at the highest PEEP. Then, PEEP was decreased stepwise to 15, 10, and 5 cm H2O, and arterial blood gases were measured after 20 min of ventilation at each of these PEEP levels. To avoid unnecessary hypoxemia, blood gases were not measured at ZEEP. Oxygen saturation was monitored during the study by pulse oximetry (HP Model 56S; Hewlett Packard, Germany).


Results are reported as means ± SD. To evaluate within-patient differences between alveolar derecruitment and oxygenation parameters at the various PEEP levels studied, one-way analysis of variance for repeated measurements and Fisher's protected least significance test were used. Pel/V curve CLIN values were compared using the Wilcoxon test for paired samples. Regression analysis (Spearman rho) was used when required. p values smaller than 0.05 were considered significant.

Feasibility of the Technique

The time needed to record a complete sequence of 4 to 5 Pel/V curves ranged from 4.2 to 5 min. No complications occurred during recordings. Mean CO2 elimination rate was 0.97 ± 0.08 of the value immediately before the recording (p > 0.05), suggesting that the recording procedure induced no disturbances.

Alveolar Derecruitment and LIP

In all 16 patients, derecruitment occurred at each PEEP decrement, as shown in Table 2. As illustrated in Figure 3, ΔVDER was almost evenly distributed across the PEEP decrements, suggesting that the alveolar closing pressures were spread over a wide range. In the seven patients who were ventilated with 20 cm H2O PEEP, ΔVDER values between PEEP 20 and 15 cm H2O (p < 0.05) and between PEEP 10 and 5 cm H2O (p < 0.05) were significantly larger than the one between PEEP 5 cm H2O and ZEEP (Figure 3). All patients showed substantial derecruitment even with the first PEEP reduction. On average, ΔVDER induced by the first PEEP decrement (from 20 to 15 cm H2O in seven patients and from 15 to 10 cm H2O in nine patients) was 34 ± 11% of the derecruitment between the individual highest PEEP and ZEEP. No correlation was found between maximal ΔVDER and PLIP.


VDER (ml)PLIP(cm H2O)PEEPi(cm H2O)
Patient No.PEEP 20PEEP 15PEEP 10PEEP 5
2418346237101 7.41.5
4121 76 44121.3
5407141 5611.82.7
6469310192 87 9.74.2
7199147 44 9.91.1
8125 80 4716.41.7
9783492311 65223.3
10506365224126 8.33.6
11236172 8613.44.3
12272203144 6.23.4
14646450293 9516.21.7
15114 62 4514.73.9
16436270135 4117.10.6
Mean564304* 188* ,†  84* ,†,‡ 13.12.5
SD142130 84 38 4.31.2

Definition of abbreviations: PEEP = positive end-expiratory pressure; PEEPi = intrinsic PEEP; Pel/V = elastic pressure–volume curve; ZEEP = zero end-expiratory pressure.

*p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 20.

p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 15.

p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 10.


Reducing PEEP levels for about 20 min decreased PaO2 /Fi O2 (228 ± 81 mm Hg at PEEP 20 cm H2O; 172 ± 81 mm Hg at PEEP 15 cm H2O; 126 ± 66 mm Hg at PEEP 10 cm H2O; and 90 ± 48 mm Hg at PEEP 5 cm H2O, p < 0.01). The drop in PaO2 /Fi O2 associated with reducing PEEP from 15 to 5 cm H2O was significantly correlated with ΔVDER over the same pressure interval: ΔPaO2 /Fi O2 (15–5) = −28.9 + 0.49 · ΔVDER (15–5) (ΔPaO2 /Fi O2 (15–5) in mm Hg and ΔVDER (15–5) in ml; rho = 0.6, p = 0.02) (Figure 4). The interval between 15 and 5 cm H2O was chosen for this calculation because data were available in all subjects. No correlation was found between ΔPaO2 /Fi O2 (15–5) and PLIP.

Linear Compliance

CLIN increased significantly and gradually as PEEP decreased (Table 3). A significant correlation was found between CLIN at ZEEP (CLINZEEP) and VDER at PEEP 15 cm H2O (VDER15): VDER15 = 130.1 + 3.7 · CLINZEEP (VDER15 in ml and CLINZEEP in ml/cm H2O; rho = 0.9, p = 0.001) (Figure 5). CLINZEEP was also significantly correlated with the PaO2 /Fi O2 ratio measured at PEEP 15 cm H2O (PaO2 /Fi O2(15)):PaO2 /Fi O2(15) = 94.5 + 1.66 · CLINZEEP; rho = 0.6, p = 0.03). Both correlations suggested that CLINZEEP reflected the potential for alveolar recruitment.


Patient No.CLIN (ml/cm H2O)
1283337 43 48
2212528 33 39
32939 42 45
41416 19 19
54047 61 66
6464956 64 61
71821 24 25
81213 15 17
10556873 81 83
111621 24 27
122025 28 41
133137 41 45
14333238 51 58
15 911 13 12
16374245 54 58
Mean41 32* 38* ,†  44* ,†,‡  47* ,†,‡,§
SD162023 26 27

Definition of abbreviations: PEEP = positive end-expiratory pressure; PEEPi = intrinsic PEEP; Pel/V = elastic pressure–volume curve; ZEEP = zero end-expiratory pressure.

*p < 0.05, compared with PEEP 20.

p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 15.

p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 10.

§p < 0.01, compared with PEEP 5.

Chest Wall and Lung Pel/V Curves

Among the five patients whose chest wall Pel/V curves were recorded, three (2, 11 and 16) had a pulmonary and two (1 and 15) an extrapulmonary cause of ALI. Chest wall had little or no influence on the shape of the Pel/V curve of the respiratory system. Only in one patient (16) did the chest wall Pel/V curve exhibit an LIP, at a pressure of 1.3 cm H2O. A UIP was found in patients 1 (2.4 cm H2O) and 16 (1.7 cm H2O). Mean chest wall CLIN was 244 ml/cm H2O (range 114–463 ml/cm H2O), and mean lung CLIN was 43 ml/cm H2O (range 14−66 ml/cm H2O).

The main results of this study can be summarized as follows: (1) alveolar derecruitment and closure were spread over a wide pressure range; (2) in patients with ALI, even a small PEEP decrease from a level as high as 15 or 20 cm H2O induced derecruitment; (3) oxygenation was closely correlated with recruitment maintained by PEEP; and (4) higher compliance above LIP on the curve traced from ZEEP was associated with a greater potential for alveolar recruitment.

Technical Issues and Limitations

The computer-controlled procedure used to record multiple Pel/V curves at decremental PEEP levels is a further development of a recently introduced technology (2, 6, 14). That this procedure is feasible and safe was demonstrated by our study. Whereas the original technique acquires a single Pel/V curve per recording session, our modification provides a fully automated sequence of multiple Pel/V curves during a single, continuous, 4- to 5-min recording session. CO2 elimination was not disturbed during recording, and no other adverse effects were detected. Bias-free analysis and alignment of Pel/V curves on end-expiratory volume of the respiratory system at ZEEP allowed us to estimate derecruitment at decremental PEEP levels. PEEP levels were not studied in random order; rather, we worked from the highest PEEP level to ZEEP. In an effort to standardize lung volume, patients were ventilated with 10 normal breaths at the highest PEEP level before each Pel/V curve recording (Figure 1). However, we found that ΔEELV between the baseline (highest) PEEP level and ZEEP after 15 min of ventilation was 69 ± 63 ml larger on average than ΔEELV measured at the end of the multiple Pel/V curve recording session (1059 versus 990 ml). This slight volume difference indicated that EELV at baseline PEEP was not completely restored after the 10-breath period. Consequently, in each patient, we corrected the last two ΔEELV measurements of the sequence for the measured volume difference in that patient. This did not affect the main results of the study, particularly our finding that substantial derecruitment occurred with the first PEEP decrement.

We used a 6-s expiration before the insufflation needed for Pel/V curve recording because zero flow is usually achieved after this duration. However, if the volume exhaled during this 6-s expiration was large, zero flow was not consistently achieved, being only closely approached in some cases. This may have influenced LIP determination because of possible interference with the PEEPi on the Pel/V curve. PEEPi has been reported to produce a fallacious LIP (15). In our study, however, all LIP values were well above PEEPi values, as shown in Table 2, suggesting that PEEPi did not interfere with LIP determination.

Effect of PEEP Decrease on Lung Volume and Significance of VDER

VDER is the lung volume lost during a single deep expiration to ZEEP and not regained when the airway pressure reaches 20 cm H2O during a subsequent slow inflation. Several mechanisms could explain the shift in the Pel/V curves. In ARDS, most of the alveolar derecruitment induced by PEEP removal may occur abruptly because of the short time constant of the respiratory system, whereas inflation of collapsed lungs is a slow and uneven process (16). Successive reinflation of collapsed lung units has been demonstrated in recent studies (5, 17, 18). Moreover, a recent study showed a good correlation between alveolar recruitment evaluated by computed tomography and by Pel/V curves, supporting the possibility that derecruitment/recruitment may be the main cause of the shift in the Pel/V curves (19).

Identification of Alveolar Closing Pressures

Our working hypothesis was that our method of alveolar derecruitment assessment might identify a threshold for alveolar closure, thus helping to determine the PEEP level required to keep the lungs open. We reasoned that, for instance, if alveolar closure started at 15 cm H2O, VDER values at 20 cm H2O and 15 cm H2O would be similar. This was not the case. Although we decreased PEEP levels from a high baseline value (20 or 15 cm H2O), we were unable to identify an “optimal” PEEP level because alveolar closure occurred gradually over a broad range of pressures in our patients with ALI. Heterogeneity in alveolar properties and particularly a high pleural pressure gradient caused by the increased lung density in ALI may explain this finding. The range of closing pressures may be at least as wide as the range of opening pressures (5, 20).

Meaning of LIP

The LIP correlated neither with maximum ΔVDER nor with the change in PaO2 /Fi O2 at the various PEEP levels. Major derecruitment occurred even at the first PEEP decrement, and further derecruitment was noted at all subsequent decrements, independently from the LIP value. Thus, both derecruitment and recruitment occurred gradually, rather than abruptly at a given threshold. LIP seems to have no relation with PEEP-induced recruitment (6-8). In patients with no identifiable LIP on Pel/V curves, Vieira and coworkers (21) found that recruitment was minimal with PEEP, whereas a risk of overdistension was present even with relatively low PEEP levels. Our findings also suggest that LIP is only a qualitative marker for a recruitable lung. The LIP reflects recruitment after a prolonged expiration, which is probably different from recruitment during tidal ventilation. Matamis and coworkers (1) and, more recently, Amato and coworkers (3) have suggested that PEEP should be set at a level above the LIP. However, a number of factors influence LIP, including chest wall elastic properties (9, 10, 22). The presence of an LIP seems to indicate a need for recruiting alveoli but may be of little help in determining the optimal end-expiratory pressure. Measurement of recruitment or derecruitment may be more relevant for determining the optimal PEEP in ALI/ARDS patients.

Effect of PEEP on Linear Compliance

In all our patients, decreasing PEEP induced an increase in CLIN of the Pel/V curves recorded during subsequent insufflation. The gradual decrease in CLIN with increasing PEEP could, in theory, reflect recruitment of some parts of the lung and distension or overdistension of other parts. However, our results are in accordance with those of Hickling (7) suggesting that a relatively low value of CLIN, as observed at high PEEP, may indicate good lung recruitment. The observations by Jonson and coworkers support this suggestion (6). In line with previous reports (16), our data suggest that a high CLIN at ZEEP (measured above the LIP) may indicate a highly recruitable lung.

Alveolar Recruitment/Derecruitment and Gas Exchange

ARDS is characterized by severe hypoxemia and intrapulmonary shunting related to the presence of perfused nonventilated alveoli. Recruiting these alveoli should, in theory, reduce intrapulmonary shunting, thereby improving oxygenation. Falke and coworkers were among the first investigators to show that the PEEP-induced increase in functional residual capacity was key to the improvement in oxygenation (23). When methods for measuring recruitment became available, Ranieri and coworkers were able to show a significant correlation between alveolar recruitment and oxygenation in patients with ARDS (24). Our study further describes the correlation between individual changes in alveolar derecruitment and in oxygenation parameters.

Influence of Chest Wall Mechanics

To minimize a possible influence of chest wall mechanical disturbances on our findings, we did not include patients with clinical conditions considered to be often associated with major chest wall abnormalities. In the five patients whose chest wall Pel/V curves were recorded, chest wall had little or no influence on the shape of the Pel/V curve of the respiratory system. A single patient, with ARDS related to a pulmonary cause, had an LIP on the chest wall Pel/V curve, at a pressure of 1.3 cm H2O, whereas PLIP on the Pel/V curve of the respiratory system was 17.1 cm H2O.


Our modified technique for fast recording of multiple Pel/V curves at various PEEP levels proved feasible and safe. Lung derecruitment, evaluated based on multiple Pel/V curves, was well correlated with oxygenation in individual patients. Derecruitment was found at each step of PEEP reduction, suggesting that alveolar closure occurred over a wide range of pressures. Substantial derecruitment occurred even at the first PEEP decrement, although the starting level was high, that is, 15 or 20 cm H2O. LIP did not indicate the pressure at which maximal alveolar derecruitment occurred. Therefore, although the presence of an LIP on the respiratory system Pel/V curve indicates a need for lung recruitment, it may be of limited value for determining the PEEP level required to prevent alveolar collapse. Finally, greater linear compliance above LIP on the Pel/V curve recorded from ZEEP predicts greater improvements in alveolar recruitment and oxygenation with increasing PEEP.

The authors thank Bjørn Drefeldt for technical support, Jordi Mancebo for helpful comments on the manuscript, and the personnel of the Henri Mondor Teaching Hospital medical intensive care unit for greatly facilitating this study.

This study was supported by INSERM U492, the Swedish Medical Research Council (02872), and the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation.

1. Matamis D, Lemaire F, Harf A, Brun-Buisson C, Ansquer JC, Atlan GTotal respiratory pressure-volume curves in the adult respiratory distress syndrome. Chest8619845866
2. Servillo G, Svantesson C, Beydon L, Roupie E, Brochard L, Lemaire F, Jonson BPressure-volume curves in acute respiratory failure. Automated low flow inflation versus occlusion. Am J Respir Crit Care Med155199716291636
3. Amato MBP, Barbas CSV, Medeiros DM, Magaldi RB, Schettino GdPP, Lorenzi-Filho G, Kairalla RA, Deheinzelin D, Munoz C, Oliveira R, Takagaki TY, Ribeiro Carvalho CR. Effect of a protective-ventilation strategy on mortality in the acute respiratory distress syndrome. N Engl J Med 1998;338:347–354.
4. Brochard L. Respiratory pressure-volume curves. In: Tobin MJ, editor. Principles and practice of intensive care monitoring. Part 2. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill for Library of Congress; 1998. p. 597–616.
5. Gattinoni L, Pelosi P, Crotti S, Valenza FEffects of positive end-expiratory pressure on regional distribution of tidal volume and recruitment in adult respiratory distress syndrome. Am J Respir Crit Care Med151199518071814
6. Jonson B, Richard JC, Straus C, Mancebo J, Lemaire F, Brochard LPressure-volume curves and compliance in acute lung injury. Evidence of recruitment above the lower inflection point. Am J Respir Crit Care Med159199911721178
7. Hickling KGThe pressure-volume curve is greatly modified by recruitment. A mathematical model of ARDS lungs. Am J Respir Crit Care Med1581998194202
8. Jonson B, Svantesson CElastic pressure-volume curves: what information do they convey? Thorax5419998287
9. Mergoni M, Martelli A, Volpi A, Primavera S, Zuccoli P, Rossi AImpact of positive end-expiratory pressure on chest wall and lung pressure volume curve in acute respiratory failure. Am J Respir Crit Care Med1561997846854
10. Ranieri VM, Brienza N, Santostasi S, Puntillo F, Mascia L, Vitale N, Giuliani R, Memeo V, Bruno F, Fiore T, Brienza A, Slutsky ASImpairment of lung and chest wall mechanics in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome: role of abdominal distension. Am J Respir Crit Care Med156199710821091
11. Bernard GR, Artigas A, Brigham KL, Carlet J, Falke K, Hudson L, Lamy L, Legall JR, Morris A, Spragg Rthe Consensus Committee. The American-European consensus conference on ARDS: definitions, mechanisms, relevant outcomes, and clinical trial coordination. Am J Respir Crit Care Med1491994818824
12. Murray JF, Matthay MA, Luce JM, Flick MRAn expanded definition of the adult respiratory distress syndrome. Am Rev Respir Dis1381988720723
13. Baydur A, Behrakis PK, Zin WA, Jaeger MI, Milic-Emili JA simple method for assessing the validity of the esophageal balloon technique. Am Rev Respir Dis1261982788791
14. Svantesson C, Drefeldt B, Sigurdsson S, Larsson A, Brochard L, Jonson BA single computer-controlled mechanical insufflation allows determination of the pressure-volume relationship of the respiratory system. J Clin Monit Comput151999916
15. Fernandez R, Mancebo J, Blanch L, Benito S, Calaf N, Net AIntrinsic PEEP on static pressure-volume curves. Intensive Care Med161990233236
16. Katz JA, Ozanne GM, Zinn SE, Fairley HBTime course and mechanisms of lung-volume increase with PEEP in acute pulmonary failure. Anesthesiology541981916
17. Dambrosio M, Roupie E, Mollet JJ, Anglade MC, Vasile N, Lemaire F, Brochard LEffects of positive end-expiratory pressure and different tidal volumes on alveolar recruitment and hyperinflation. Anesthesiology871997495503
18. Gattinoni L, Pesenti A, Bombino M, Baglioni S, Rivolta M, Rossi F, Rossi G, Fumagalli R, Marcolin R, Mascheroni D, Torresin ARelationships between lung computed tomographic density, gas exchange, and PEEP in acute respiratory failure. Anesthesiology691988824832
19. Lu Q, Constantin JM, Malbouisson L, Bugalho T, Mourgeon E, Puybasset L, Coriat P, Rouby JJComparison of 2 methods for assessing alveolar recruitment in ARDS: pressure-volume curve vs CT scan analysis [abstract]. Am J Respir Crit Care Med1612000A487
20. Greaves IA, Hildebrandt J, Hoppin FG. Micromechanics of the lung. In: Macklem PT, Mead J, editors. Handbook of physiology, 3rd ed. Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society; 1986. p. 217–231.
21. Vieira SR, Puybasset L, Lu Q, Richecoeur J, Cluzel P, Coriat P, Rouby JJA scanographic assessment of pulmonary morphology in acute lung injury: significance of the lower inflection point detected on the lung pressure-volume curve. Am J Respir Crit Care Med159199916121623
22. Pelosi P, Cereda M, Foti G, Giacomini M, Pesenti AAlterations of lung and chest wall mechanics in patients with acute lung injury: effects of positive end-expiratory pressure. Am J Respir Crit Care Med1521995531537
23. Falke KJ, Pontoppidan H, Kumar A, Leith DE, Geffin B, Laver HBVentilation with positive end-expiratory pressure in acute lung disease. J Clin Invest51197223152323
24. Ranieri VM, Eissa NT, Corbeil C, Chasse M, Braidy J, Matar N, Milic-Emili JEffects of positive end-expiratory pressure on alveolar recruitment and gas exchange in patients with the adult respiratory distress syndrome. Am Rev Respir Dis1441991544551
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Prof. L. Brochard, Réanimation Médicale, Hôpital Henri Mondor, 94000 Créteil, France. E-mail:

This article has an online data supplement, which is accessible from this issue's table of contents online at


No related items
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

Click to see any corrections or updates and to confirm this is the authentic version of record