Is permissive hypercapnia a beneficial strategy for pediatric acute lung injury?
It is clear that mechanical ventilation strategies influence the course of lung disease, and the choice of a ventilation strategy that avoids volutrauma and atelectrauma is firmly based on experimental literature and clinical experience. The application of a lung-protective strategy with reduced tidal volumes, effective lung recruitment, adequate PEEP to minimize alveolar collapse during expiration, and permissive hypercapnia has been shown to be advantageous in adult patients who have ARDS, although it has not been systematically studied in children. A significant body of literature confirms the beneficial effects of hypercapnic acidemia in the setting of acute lung injury. As a corollary, experimental evidence indicates that buffering hypercapnic acidosis abrogates its protective effects. The use of permissive hypercapnia as part of a lung-protective strategy in children should be accepted and perhaps even desired, provided it does not result in significant hemodynamic instability. This acceptance should be tempered with the recognition that a low-stretch, reduced-tidal volume strategy without hypercapnia has also been shown to improve outcomes in adults who have ARDS and that HFOV can generally provide lung-protective ventilation without necessarily inducing hypercapnia. Thus, a synthesis of the available clinical and research data strongly supports a graded approach to managing patients who have acute lung injury requiring intubation. The highest priority should be a mechanical ventilation strategy that limits the tidal volume, with the allowance of hypercapnia to a degree that does not compromise hemodynamic status.
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