Mechanical power during mechanical ventilation

Kenneth Nugent MD, Gilbert Berdine MD


Mechanical ventilation provides lifesaving support for patients with acute respiratory failure. However, the pressures and volumes required to maintain gas exchange can cause ventilator-induced lung injury. The current approach to mechanical ventilation involves attention to both tidal volume and airway pressures, in particular plateau pressures and driving pressures. The ventilator provides energy to overcome airway resistance and to inflate alveolar structures. This energy delivered to the respiratory system per unit time equals mechanical power. Calculation of mechanical power provides a composite number that integrates pressures, volumes, and respiratory rates. Increased levels of mechanical power have been associated with tissue injury in animal models. In patients, mechanical power can predict outcomes, such as ICU mortality, when used in multivariable analyses. Increases in mechanical power during the initial phase of ventilation have been associated with worse outcomes. Mechanical power calculations can be used in patients on noninvasive ventilation, and measurements of mechanical power have been used to compare ventilator modes. Calculation of mechanical power requires measurement of the area in a hysteresis loop. Alternatively, simplified formulas have been developed to provide this calculation. However, this information is not available on most ventilators. Therefore, clinicians will need to make this calculation. In summary, calculation of mechanical power provides an estimate of the energy requirements for mechanical ventilation based on a composite of factors, including airway resistance, lung elastance, respiratory rate, and tidal volume.

Keywords: mechanical ventilation, mechanical power, ventilator-induced lung injury, energy, work

Article citation: Nugent K, Berdine G. Mechanical power during mechanical ventilation. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles 2024;12(50):16–23
From: Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, Texas
Submitted: 12/1/2023
Accepted: 12/30/2023
Conflicts of interest: none
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