Author(s): Musante G
Thoracoabdominal asynchrony (TAA) and chest wall distortion (CWD) are commonly seen in preterm infants secondary to a highly compliant rib cage and poor compensation of distorting forces by inspiratory rib cage muscles. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) reduces TAA and CWD by stenting the chest wall. We hypothesized that application of positive airway pressure only during inspiration and in proportion to an infant's inspiratory effort should have a similar but more pronounced effect than CPAP alone. A ventilator providing airway pressure changes in proportion to flow and volume generated by an infant (proportional assist ventilation) was used to unload the respiratory pump during inspiration. Ten preterm infants were studied [birth weight, 745 (635-1175) g; gestational age, 26.5 (24-31) wk; postnatal age 3 (1-7) d; medium (range)]. TAA and CWD were determined by respiratory inductive plethysmography. TAA was expressed as the phase angle between the rib cage and abdominal motion and CWD as the total compartmental displacement ratio. In addition, we measured tidal volume with a pneumotachograph and esophageal and airway pressure deflections with pressure transducers. Measurements were obtained during alternating periods of CPAP and two different degrees of support (Gain 1 = 1.09 +/- 0.68, Gain 2 = 1.84 +/- 0.84 cm H(2)O/mL) that were provided by a proportional assist ventilator. Phase angle and the total compartmental displacement ratio decreased with increasing gain compared with CPAP alone. Peak airway pressure increased from 0.6 to 3.8 to 7.6 cm H(2)O above positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) with CPAP, Gain 1, and Gain 2, respectively, as tidal volume increased from 2.8 to 4.1 to 4.7 mL/kg. Esophageal pressure changes decreased only little with increasing gain. Chest wall excursion increased and abdominal movement decreased, indicating a redistribution of tidal volume between chest and abdomen. We conclude that proportional assist ventilation reduces TAA and CWD by generating a small increase in airway pressure that occurs in synchrony and in proportion to each inspiratory effort.