IN INTENSIVE CARE
o.n.. ~ I C__._ ICMm
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Revision Notes in
Intensive Care Medicine
Revision Notes in
Intensive Care Medicine
Specialty Registrar in Intensive Care Medicine,
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust,
Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine,
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital,
Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine & Medical Donation Specialist,
Austin Hospital & Austin Clinical School,
The University of Melbourne,
Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Speciality Registrar and Honorary Clinical Lecturer,
Liver Intensive Therapy Unit,
Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust,
Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine,
Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust,
Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP,
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The authors would like to thank their families for the support provided and
patience shown through the many hours it took to put this book together.
To Chloe, Leena, Claire, Lawrie, Ann, Rachel, Anabel, Hamish, Joshua, and all
others. Thank you.
3 Renal and metabolic 111
4 Gastroenterology and hepatology 151
8 Injury: trauma and environmental 297
10 Obstetrics 347
11 Dying, death, organ, and tissue donation 367
12 Organizational issues 383
13 Ethics, law, and communication 411
14 Perioperative care 423
Key papers 445
activated clotting time
acute kidney injury
acute liver failure
APACHEacute physiology and chronic
activated protein C
APRVairway pressure release
APTTactivated partial thromboplastin
ARDSacute respiratory distress
advanced trauma life support
acute tubular necrosis
coronary artery bypass grafting
CAM-ICUconfusion assessment method
critical care outreach team
chronic kidney disease
cerebral oxygen consumption
CPAPcontinuous positive airway
cardiopulmonary exercise testing
cerebral perfusion pressure
central venous catheter
donation after brain death
diastolic blood pressure
donation after circulatory death
extended criteria donation
endovascular aneurysm repair
fresh frozen plasma
fractional inspired O2
functional residual capacity
Glasgow coma score
glomerular filtration rate
high-flow nasal cannulae
haemolytic uraemic syndrome
intra-aortic balloon pump
intensive care medicine
intensive care unit
IMCAindependent mental capacity
international normalized ratio
injury severity score
mean arterial pressure
MELDmodel for end-stage liver
medical emergency team
major trauma centre
NAVAneurally adjusted ventilatory
neuroleptic malignant syndrome
post-anaesthesia care unit
arterial partial pressure CO2
alveolar partial pressure O2
arterial partial pressure O2
PAOPpulmonary artery occlusion
inspired partial pressure O2
positive end expiratory pressure
peak expiratory flow rate
PERTpatient emergency response
post-traumatic stress disorder
relative adrenal insufficiency
RASSRichmond agitation and sedation
respiratory exchange ratio
receiver operator curve
renal replacement therapy
rapid response team
rapid sequence induction
simplified acute physiology score
systolic blood pressure
spontaneous breathing trial
sickle cell disease
SIRSsystemic inflammatory response
systemic lupus erythematosis
standardized mortality ratio
SOFAsequential organ failure
systemic vascular resistance
traumatic brain injury
TIPSStransjugual intrahepatic portosystemic shunt
TISStherapeutic intervention scoring
track and trigger system
uninterruptable power supply
white cell count
warm ischaemia time
Intensive care medicine (ICM) is a specialty on the rise. Borne of the need for respiratory
support in the polio epidemics of the mid-twentieth century, ICM has evolved from an ad hoc
extension of anaesthetic practice to one of the most rapidly growing and advancing areas of
ICM is integral to the care of the seriously ill and injured patient, working in partnership with
traditional medical and surgical specialties to deliver increasingly complex and ambitious interventions. The significant decrease in morbidity and mortality associated with, for example,
major trauma, severe sepsis, and acute severe asthma, owes much to the evolution of ICM as a
Additionally, ICM is key to perioperative medicine: complex, invasive surgical procedures that
significantly derange physiology are only routinely survivable with high-quality, intensive, post-operative care. Many patients previously deemed too frail to undergo life-prolonging surgery, can
now expect a safe and smooth perioperative journey due to the expertise within the intensive
care unit (ICU).
The role of ICM extends beyond the walls of the ICU. Mobile intensive care teams identify and
support patients deteriorating on general wards. This external role is not limited to the hospital:
ICM has made large contributions to pre-hospital and transfer medicine.
Finally, a greater appreciation of the impact of critical illness on patients and their families has
led to the development of rehabilitation and follow-up services within intensive care. This necessitates a different range of skills amongst staff.
Not only is ICM increasing in terms of breadth of practice, it is increasing in its depth of understanding and complexity of intervention. Consider respiratory failure as an example. Over a
relatively short period of time, simple bag-in-bottle ventilators have evolved into complex, multimodal systems with an array of adjustable parameters. This technological advance has been accompanied by huge strides in the understanding of the pathophysiology of respiratory failure and
how this is affected by positive pressure ventilation. Various ventilation ‘strategies’ have come and
gone. Numerous adjunctive pharmacological therapies have been proposed. And other forms of
mechanical support, such as oscillation and extracorporeal oxygenation, have joined traditional
This expansion in breadth and depth requires delivery by an expert multi-disciplinary team.
ICM has always relied upon the input of enthusiastic doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dieticians, and other professionals. But the explosion in scope of ICM has meant that, in
many regions, on-job learning is no longer sufficient and formal training is either highly desirable
or mandated. Numerous professional bodies have formed to provide guidance and oversight;
curricula have been developed, remarkably similar between regions in their content; and systems
of assessment, to judge competency and ensure quality, have been introduced.
It is for professionals working through these programmes of training and undertaking these
tests of competency that this book is intended.
The content of Revision Notes in Intensive Care Medicine is largely guided by the three major
English language medical exams related to ICM: the Fellowship of the College of Intensive Care
Medicine (FCICM), set by the college of Australia and New Zealand and undertaken by candidates from that region; the British Fellowship of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FFICM);
and the European Diploma of Intensive Care (EDIC). We have sought to provide a broad overview of the curricula but with particular focus on those areas that appear to be common examination subjects (it should be noted that, at the time of writing, none of the authors have any role
in the setting or assessment of these exams; our involvement has been solely as candidates or in
supporting colleagues who are candidates).
Despite the medical origins of this publication, we believe it to be highly relevant to the other
professions. The National Competency Framework produced by the British Association for
Critical Care Nursing has many similarities to the medical curricula mentioned above; comparable critical care frameworks have been proposed for pharmacists. In addition, many universities
offer postgraduate ICM qualifications up to Masters level. Revision Notes in Intensive Care Medicine
would provide a useful companion to these programmes.
We have aimed to incorporate the ever-expanding evidence-base underpinning ICM practice.
We have not imposed any in-depth analysis of these papers. Rather we have sought to contextualize what we believe to be the key papers, and would encourage readers to explore the original
publications themselves and to draw their own conclusions regarding the quality and validity of
Finally, we must acknowledge the changing face of medical education, in particular the rise in
prominence of online resources, and consider the role of the book. There are those who would
argue that in the Internet age the book, less dynamic and less frequently updated than website
resources, is of little or no use. We would, however, (perhaps unsurprisingly) disagree. The book
provides a palpable structure to training, and a solid base upon which to build revision. The vast
majority of the content will not change: the principles of physics, physiology, and pharmacology
are unlikely to be revoked prior to the next edition. And whilst new evidence will emerge, new
technologies will evolve, and existing practices will adapt over the lifetime of this book, these
developments are best understood in the context of current understanding of the bigger picture.
Revision Notes in Intensive Care Medicine provides this base and context.
We wish all readers the very best in their training and careers, and welcome all feedback on
this inaugural edition.
CH A PTE R 1
CO NT ENTS
1 Respiratory pathophysiology 1
2 Respiratory monitoring 12
3 Respiratory support 14
4 Airway management 27
5 Liberation from the ventilator 32
6 Acute respiratory distress syndrome 40
7 Inhalational injury 44
8 Acute severe asthma 46
9 Exacerbation of COPD 49
10 Pneumonia 51
11 Pulmonary embolus 56
12 Pleural disease 59
13 Massive haemoptysis 61
1 Respiratory pathophysiology
1.1 Oxygenation, hypoxaemia, and tissue hypoxia
Hypoxaemia relates to low arterial oxygen tension and occurs due to pathology in the transfer
of oxygen from the atmosphere to the left side of the heart.
Hypoxia may relate to any tissue and may be the consequence of either inadequate arterial
oxygen tension or inadequate delivery of arterial oxygen to the end organ.
The causes of hypoxaemia and inadequate oxygen delivery will be described sequentially.
1.1.1 Hypoxaemia and the oxygen cascade
The sequence of events in the transfer and transport of oxygen from the external environment to arterial blood is illustrated by the oxygen cascade (Fig. 1.1).
The oxygen cascade demonstrates the sequential reduction in oxygen tension that occurs with
each step under normal physiological conditions.
The oxygen cascade is a useful tool when discussing the processes underlying hypoxaemia, as it
provides a systematic means of exploring the many causes of inadequate arterial oxygenation.
1.1.2 Mechanisms of hypoxaemia
There are several mechanisms of hypoxaemia:
Low inspired oxygen:
■ Related to atmospheric pressure and FiO2 (Table 1.1).
■ Potential clinically relevant causes are:
■ The reduced atmospheric pressure at altitude, relevant in aeromedical work.
■ Hypoxic gas mixtures, which may occur in the event of oxygen supply failure.
■ Reduction in global ventilation leads to decrease in ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) and consequential hypoxia.
2 Chapter 1 Respiratory
Characterized by a normal A–a gradient (Table 1.1) and correction by delivery of
● Diffusion impairment:
■ Potential causes include:
■ Increase in the thickness of alveolar membrane (e.g. fibrotic lung disease).
■ Decrease in capillary transit time and therefore insufficient opportunity for oxygen
diffusion and uptake (e.g. hyperdynamic state of severe sepsis).
■ Reduction in pulmonary capillary blood volume (e.g. hypovolaemia).
● Ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) mismatch and shunt:
■ In health, regional V/Q varies from 0.6 (at the bases) to 3 (at the apices); overall V/Q is,
however, approximately 1. Almost all blood returning to the left heart is oxygenated.
■ Reduction in ventilation relative to perfusion in a given lung unit results in reduction in
V/Q. Physiological hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction will reduce flow to poorly ventilated units however, some blood flow persists. Blood passing through low V/Q units
bypasses (or ‘shunts’) gas exchange and is returned to the left heart poorly oxygenated.
■ At low shunt fractions, increase in FiO2 may compensate for the reduced ventilation and
provide adequate arterial oxygenation; at >30% shunt fraction, however, increase in FiO2
will not improve arterial oxygenation.
■ A ‘true shunt’ occurs if blood passes from right to left of the heart via a route with no
contact with gas. This may be intra-pulmonary, in lung units with zero ventilation (e.g.
dense consolidation) or intra-cardiac (e.g. right to left flow across a septal defect). As
there is no opportunity for shunted blood to participate in gas exchange, increase in FiO2
will not improve systemic oxygenation.
■ The shunt fraction may be calculated using the equation outlined in Table 1.1.
Table 1.2 outlines factors that allow determination of the underlying mechanism of hypoxaemia.
Fig. 1.1 Oxygen cascade
Table 1.1 Oxygen Cascade
Determined by: fraction of oxygen (FiO2)
within the gas mix (0.21 in room air) and
atmospheric pressure (PATM) (101.3 kPa at
Rarely a consideration out with high
altitude communities and aeromedical
FiO2 easily manipulated within the ICU.
PO2 = FO
Altitude, hypoxic gas
Gas entering the trachea is humidified.
Calculation of the PO2 must therefore
account for the effect of humidity within
the gas mix and thus the saturated vapour
pressure of water (6.3 kPa at 37°C) is
subtracted from PATM. This results in a
small drop in PO2.
PO2 = FO
P − PH2O )
2 ( ATM
Within the alveoli, CO2 makes a far greater
contribution to the gas mix (a normal
PACO2 being around 5.3 kPa).
The effect of CO2 on PAO2 is determined
via the Alveolar Gas Equation.
There is virtually no gradient between
alveolar and arterial CO2 therefore PACO2
and PaCO2 are used interchangeably for
the purposes of calculation.
The CO2 production relative to O2
delivery must be accounted for by addition
of the respiratory quotient which is
routinely taken to be 0.8.
Alveolar Gas Equation
of any cause (see
PA O2 = (FO
P − PH2O )) −
2 ( ATM
Respiratory pathophysiology 3
Table 1.1 continued
Oxygen diffuses across the alveolar
membrane into the pulmonary capillaries.
The rate of diffusion (Q) is determined
by Fick’s law and is dependent upon
concentration gradient (P1 – P2), surface
area for diffusion, membrane thickness, and
diffusion co-efficient (which is in turn related
to solubility and molecular weight of the gas).
Any pathology which alters any of these
factors (e.g. emphysema – reducing
the surface area-; pulmonary oedema,
increasing membrane thickness) may impair
diffusion and cause hypoxia.
Oxygenated blood from the pulmonary
circulation mixes with de-oxygenated blood
in the left side of the heart. Normally this
‘venous admixture’ is small (<3% of total
blood flow), arising physiologically from
bronchial and the thebesian veins.
Pathological increase in the venous admixture
may originate within the heart (intra-cardiac)
or within the pulmonary vasculature (intrapulmonary). Intra-cardiac shunt occurs
secondary to any right to left flow across
the septum (e.g. VSD with elevated right
heart pressures). Intra-pulmonary shunt
occurs in areas of lung perfused but not
ventilated (e.g. consolidation; collapse
secondary to endobronchial obstruction;
atelectasis secondary to position, effusion,
×D(P1 − P2 )
A − a gradient = PA O2 − Pa O2
C O − C a O2
= C 2
C C O2 − C v O 2
Oxygen content equation
CO2 = (Sp O2 ×Hb ×1.34) + 0.003Pa O2
PO2—partial pressure oxygen; PAO2—partial pressure oxygen in alveoli; PaO2—partial pressure oxygen in artery; PCO2-partial pressure carbon dioxide; FiO2 – fractional inspired oxygen;
PATM—atmospheric pressure; Q—flow across membrane; A—area of diffusion; T—thickness of membrane; D—diffusion coefficient; Qs—shunt flow; Qt—total flow; CcO2—capillary oxygen content;
CaO2—arterial oxygen content; CvO2—venous oxygen content. ASD—atrial septal defect; VSD—ventricular septal defect; Hb- Haemoglobin.
4 Chapter 1 Respiratory
Respiratory pathophysiology 5
Table 1.2 Factors differentiating different modes of hypoxaemia
Yes, if <30%
Low inspired oxygen
1.1.3 Oxygen carriage
Fig. 1.2 Oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve. Typical values for arterial and venous blood are indicated; P50 represents the PaO2 at which Hb is 50% saturated, the value of which will alter with
right and left ‘shifts’ of the curve (section 1.1.3).
Oxygen has low solubility in plasma and therefore relies upon binding to haemoglobin for
Every erythrocyte contains 2–3 million haemoglobin molecules (Hb), each capable of binding four
oxygen molecules. Hb exhibits allosteric properties, the affinity of Hb increases with every molecule of oxygen it binds. This leads to the classic oxy-haemoglobin dissociation curve (Fig. 1.2).
Factors that lead to a ‘left-shift’ of the dissociation curve (and thereby increase the affinity of
Hb for O2) include decrease in temperature, PaCO2 or 2,3-diphosphoglyceric acid (DPG), and
increase in pH.
Factors that lead to a ‘right-shift’ include increase in temperature, PaCO2, DPG, a decrease in pH.
6 Chapter 1 Respiratory
1.1.4 Oxygen delivery
Oxygen delivery (DO2) is dependent upon:
■ The transfer of oxygen from atmosphere into blood (as described by the oxygen cascade).
■ The carriage of oxygen in blood, primarily bound to haemoglobin (Hb).
■ Systemic blood flow as determined by cardiac output (CO).
These factors are illustrated in the oxygen delivery (flux) equation:
DO2 = CO((SaO2 × Hb × 1.34) + 0.003PaO2)
Hypoxia may relate to any tissue. It reflects a failure of oxygen delivery due an abnormality in
one of the components of the oxygen delivery equation (section 1.1.4). Mechanisms of hypoxia are classically described as:
■ Hypoxaemic hypoxia—low arterial oxygen tension (occurring for any of the reasons described in section 1.1.2).
■ Anaemic hypoxia—low haemoglobin (or impaired haemoglobin, e.g. methaemoglobinaemia and carbon monoxide poisoning) and therefore failure of oxygen carriage.
■ Stagnant hypoxia—low cardiac output.
■ Cytotoxic hypoxia—abnormal cellular utilization of oxygen leads to failure of aerobic
respiration despite adequate oxygen delivery (e.g. cyanide poisoning).
1.2 Physiological ventilation and hypercapnia
Ventilation is the movement of gas in and out of the lungs, allowing clearance of excreted CO2
and replenishment of O2 within the alveoli.
CO2 is around 22 times more soluble than O2. Consequently, its transfer from plasma to alveoli is not significantly affected by the numerous factors dictating the efficiency of O2 transfer
in the opposite direction. Indeed, at constant metabolic rate, the plasma CO2 is affected only by
ventilatory clearance. Hence, alveolar minute ventilation and PaCO2 are directly related.
1.2.1 Ventilation volumes
Figure 1.3 demonstrates the volumes associate with ventilation. Average values for these volumes are given.
Minute volume (MV) is the product of Vt and frequency (f ).
1.2.2 Alveolar ventilation and dead space
Not all of the tidal volume (Vt) is involved in gas exchange; dead space contributes a variable
proportion of each breath:
■ Anatomical dead space—the conducting airways (e.g. pharynx, trachea, and majority of
bronchial tree) do not contribute to gas exchange and therefore constitute dead space.
Approximately 2 ml/kg. Reduced by endotracheal intubation as the tube has less volume
than the pharynx. Fowler’s method is used to measure anatomical dead space in experimental conditions.
■ Alveolar dead space—volume of tidal breath that enters alveoli which are ventilated but
not perfused. Negligible in health. Increased in disease (e.g. pulmonary embolism, low
cardiac output state).
■ Physiological dead space—the combination of anatomical and alveolar dead space. May
be calculated by means of the Bohr equation. A clinically applicable version of the Bohr
VD Pa CO2 − Pe CO2
Respiratory pathophysiology 7
Inspiratory reserve volume 2,500 ml
Tidal volume 500 ml
Total lung capacity
Expiratory reserve volume 1,500 ml
Residual volume 1,500 ml
Fig. 1.3 Lung volumes with approximate values for a 70-kg adult.
where VD = dead space volume; VT = tidal volume; PeCO2 = end tidal partial pressure
● Dead space and mechanical ventilation:
■ The contribution of dead space in the mechanically ventilated patient varies
significantly depending upon the relative contribution of frequency and Vt to a
■ Consider: dead space 150 ml, Vt 600 ml, f 10/min. Total MV: 600 x 10 = 6,000 ml. Alveolar MV: (600 – 150) x 10 = 4,500 ml.
■ Consider now: dead space 150 ml, Vt 200 ml, f 30/min. Total MV: 200 x 30 = 6,000 ml.
Alveolar MV: (200 – 150) x 30 = 1,500 ml.
■ Therefore, whilst the total MV is the same in both scenarios, the high f, low Vt
configuration leads to a significantly lower alveolar MV with resultant lower CO2
1.2.3 Minute ventilation, carbon dioxide, and oxygen
The impact of alveolar minute ventilation upon arterial gases is illustrated in Figs 1.4 and 1.5.
In health, the primary determinant of minute volume is PaCO2 (Fig. 1.6.). Central chemoreceptors in the medulla detect the change in pH associated with changes in PaCO2.
PaO2 only becomes an important determinant of minute ventilation in hypoxia (Fig. 1.7).
1.2.4 ‘Hypoxic respiratory drive’
The administration of supplemental oxygen may be associated with a rise in PaCO2, particularly in the context of chronic lung disease. There is a commonly held belief that this is due
8 Chapter 1 Respiratory
Alveolar minute volume (l.min–1)
Fig. 1.4 Relationship between alveolar minute ventilation and PaCO2. Doubling of alveolar minute
volume leads to halving of PaCO2.
Alveolar minute volume (l.min–1)
Fig. 1.5 Relationship between alveolar minute ventilation and PaO2 at various FiO2.
Respiratory pathophysiology 9
Minute volume (l.min–1)
Fig. 1.6 PaCO2 as a determinant of minute ventilation. Minute volume rises linearly with rising
PaCO2 except at extreme hypercapnia where the respiratory drive is blunted. The curve may be
shifted, for example, by chronic hypercapnia and administration of opiates.
Minute volume (l.min–1)
PaCO2 10 kPa
PaCO2 5 kPa
Fig. 1.7 PaO2 as a determinant of minute ventilation. PaO2 has little impact upon respiratory drive
unless hypoxaemic. Hypercapnia shifts the curve leading to initiation of respiratory drive at a
10 Chapter 1 Respiratory
to ‘hypoxic respiratory drive’: that the chronically hypercapnic patient adapts by converting the
primary determinant of minute volume from carbon dioxide to oxygen content. Thus, administration of oxygen leads to a decrease in minute volume and resultant hypercapnia. This is true
only in a minority of patients. Oxygen administration associated hypercapnia is more likely to be
● Worsening ventilation–perfusion matching due to supplemental oxygen diffusing to poorly
ventilated lung units.
● The Haldane effect: deoxyhaemoglobin is a better buffer of CO 2 than oxyhaemoglobin.
Increasing PaO2 results in a greater proportion of CO2 being transported dissolved in
1.2.5 Mechanics of ventilation
■ Defined as the change in lung volume per unit change in pressure (usually represented in
■ Both the lungs and the chest wall contribute to respiratory compliance. When combined, the reciprocals are added (the reciprocal of compliance is called ‘elastance’). Normal values produce:
Cthorax Cparenchyma 200 200 100
∴ Ctotal = 100ml.cmH2 O
Static compliance (Cstatic):
■ Measured when gas flow is absent.
■ It is calculated either by performing an ‘end-inspiratory hold manoeuvre’ on the ventilator, or adding an inspiratory pause to allow estimation of plateau pressure (PPlat) (inspiratory airway pressure in the absence of gas flow):
PPlat − PEEP
Static compliance is typically decreased by lung parenchymal disease (e.g. ARDS, pneumonia, or pulmonary fibrosis), chest wall disease (e.g. kyphoscoliosis, obesity, or circumferential burns), or raised intra-abdominal pressure.
Dynamic compliance (Cdyn):
■ Measured during rhythmic breathing, Cdyn is determined by peak pressure (PPeak) rather
than plateau pressure.
PPeak − PEEP
PPeak is higher than PPlat. PPeak represents both the compliance of the lung and chest wall,
plus the pressure required to overcome airway resistance. As a consequence Cdyn is
lower than Cstatic.
Normally dynamic compliance is only 2–3 ml.cmH2O–1 lower than static compliance. A
larger discrepancy arises in the context of obstructive airway disease where higher pressure is required to overcome increased airway resistance.
Respiratory pathophysiology 11
Whole lung compliance:
Total Lung Capacity
Functional Residual Capacity
Fig. 1.8 Lung compliance curve. The small central loop represents a tidal volume breath. The
larger outer loop represents a vital capacity breath and demonstrates the low compliance encountered at low and high lung volumes.
If a whole lung compliance curve is created, by charting change in volume against change
in pressure, a sigmoid relationship is demonstrated (Fig. 1.8).
■ A low compliance region is found at low airway pressures and volumes, where alveoli
may be collapsed and require significant force to overcome surface tension. This is followed by a region of maximum compliance; greater volume increase is achieved for a
given rise in pressure. Finally, when volume approaches total lung capacity, compliance
■ This observation is clinically relevant in setting the optimal level of PEEP.
■ The rate of inflation of the lung—or units within the lung—depend on the pressure applied, its compliance, and resistance.
■ The time constant of a given unit is defined as the product of compliance and resistance;
it reflects how quickly that unit can react to changes in pressure.
■ The lung consists of multiple ‘units’ of differing compliance and resistance (and therefore
different time constants).
■ At end inspiration, pendelluft ventilation occurs and gas moves from units with short
time constant (fast units) to units of long time constant (slow units).
■ In health, there is little difference in time constant between units. In disease, particularly
inflammatory processes such as ARDS, there may be significant difference.
12 Chapter 1 Respiratory
2 Respiratory monitoring
2.1 Monitoring of oxygen
2.1.1 Pulse oximetry
A safe, rapid, non-invasive, continuous, and readily available means of determining oxygen
Utilizes the Beer–Lambert principle to determine the relative concentrations of oxy- and
deoxy-haemoglobin in the arterial blood.
Two infra-red light emitting diodes (of wavelengths 660 nm and 940 nm) cycle on and off several hundred times per second.
Light at 940 nm undergoes greater absorption by oxyhaemoglobin than by de-
oxyhaemoglobin; the opposite is true for light at 660 nm.
Comparison of the relative absorbance at these two wavelengths allows SpO2 to be calculated. Accuracy is impaired by movement artefact, nail polish, hypoperfusion, and venous
The technology was calibrated on healthy volunteers and is, therefore, less reliable at SpO2
2.1.2 Oxygenation scores
PaO2:FiO2 (P:F) ratio:
■ A simple means of accounting for the impact of FiO2 on PaO2.
■ Commonly utilized in trials and is a component of the definition of acute respiratory
distress syndrome to assess the severity of the syndrome.
■ Normally the P:F ratio exceeds 60 kPa (13.3/0.21 = 63.3 kPa).
■ P:F ratio is, however, affected by many factors, including the FiO2 (the relationship between P:F ratio and FiO2 is not linear) and airway pressure; and depends on multiple
factors, including the cardiac output, the intra-pulmonary shunt fraction, and the arterialto-venous difference in oxygen content.
Alveolar–arterial (A–a) gradient:
■ Calculated by subtracting the PaO2 from the PAO2 (obtained from the alveolar gas equation; Table 1.1)
■ Takes into account both the FiO2 and any hypoventilation when describing the degree of
Oxygenation index (OI):
■ Takes into account the mean airway pressure
■ Calculated as:
Expresses the pressure required to maintain a given PaO2/FiO2 ratio and thereby allows
comparison of patients with same PaO2/FiO2 ratio but different ventilator pressures
■ The higher the OI, the worse the lung injury
Lung injury score (Murray score):
■ A means of determining the degree of lung injury in acute respiratory distress syndrome.
■ Primarily used in trials; may be an adjunct to decision-making for extracorporeal support.
■ Calculated from the number of involved quadrants on the chest X-ray, the P:F ratio, the
level of PEEP, and the static compliance.
× mean airway pressure
Respiratory monitoring 13
2.2 Monitoring of carbon dioxide
2.2.1 Capnometry and capnography
The monitoring of end tidal CO2 (ETCO2) has become a standard of care in the intubated patient.
Capnometry refers to the monitoring of ETCO2; capnography refers to the graphical display
of the waveform of ETCO2 against time.
Capnometry typically utilizes infrared technology:
■ A detector is placed within the breathing circuit (in-line capnometry).
■ Or a sample of gas is continuously streamed from the circuit for analysis (side-stream
■ ETCO2 provides a variety of information, particularly if displayed as capnography, including a value for ETCO2 (PeCO2) (Fig. 1.9 and Table 1.3).
Fig. 1.9 Capnography trace. Phase 0—inspiratory downstroke representing beginning of inspiration. Phase 1—inspiratory baseline representing inspired gas which should be devoid of CO2.
Phase 2—expiratory upstroke, initially representing dead space with no CO2 then becoming
alveolar gas. Phase 3—alveolar plateau.
Table 1.3 Role of capnography
Confirmation that the tracheal tube is within the airway at the time of intubation
Confirmation that the tracheal tube remains within the airway throughout period
Confirmation of tube patency and continuity of the ventilator circuit
Provides respiratory rate
The graphical display may demonstrate a pattern typical of a particular pathology
(e.g. bronchospasm leads to a slow rising stage 2 and 3)
Allows determination of dead space: increasing discrepancy between PeCO2 and
PaCO2 (normally <0.7 kPa) suggests increasing dead space (see Section 1.2.2)
Confirms presence of circulation. Particularly useful in the context of cardiac
arrest where presence of a capnography trace suggests effective CPR is being
Sudden drop in PeCO2 suggests fall in cardiac output (e.g. massive pulmonary
14 Chapter 1 Respiratory
3 Respiratory support
3.1 Oxygen therapy
3.1.1 Hudson mask
Face mask that delivers low flow oxygen (typically between 5 and 8 litres of flow; lower flows
may not clear exhaled CO2 from the mask, leading to CO2 rebreathing).
FiO2 estimated to lie between 0.4 (at 5–6 litres) and 0.6 (7–8 litres).
FiO2 however varies significantly depending upon patient’s minute volume:
■ With normal work of breathing and respiratory rate, the proportion of oxygen flow relative to entrained air will be relatively high and therefore the FiO2 will be relatively high.
■ If work of breathing and respiratory rate are increased, the proportion of oxygen flow
relative to entrained air will fall and so too will the FiO2.
■ There is no means of measuring the FiO2.
Humidified systems are available.
3.1.2 Reservoir bag mask
This is a low flow system in which the addition of a bag to the Hudson mask provides a reservoir of oxygen.
This overcomes, to some degree, the issue described with standard Hudson masks: even with
high work of breathing, oxygen is drawn from the reservoir bag in preference to entrainment
of room air; a higher FiO2 may be achieved.
The mask must be well fitted to prevent entrainment of air and benefit from the reservoir.
At 10 litres flow, an FiO2 of around 0.7 can be expected.
Gas supply cannot be humidified.
3.1.3 Fixed performance mask
The fixed performance mask utilizes the Venturi effect to create a high flow system, which
overcomes the issue of variable FiO2 affecting the low flow systems.
The flow of oxygen is forced through a fixed aperture leading to acceleration of flow and
entrainment of a fixed proportion of room air; the FiO2 is therefore fixed and independent of
The FiO2 may typically be set at 0.24, 0.28, 0.35, 0.4, or 0.6.
Humidified circuits utilizing the Venturi effect are available.
3.1.4 Nasal cannulae
Simple nasal cannulae provide an unobtrusive means of delivering low flow oxygen to
Deliver oxygen at 2–4 litres per minute, equating to an FiO2 of 0.24–0.35 (although, like the
Hudson mask, the FiO2 varies with respiratory effort).
No facility to humidify therefore can lead to drying of mucous membranes.
3.1.5 High flow nasal cannulae
High flow nasal cannulae (HFNC) utilize the Venturi effect and are capable of delivering up to
60 litres of flow per minute, with an FiO2 of between 0.21 and 1.0.
HFNC systems are capable of humidifying and warming inspired gas.
Patients may eat, drink, talk cough, and expectorate with the HFNC; compliance is therefore
improved in comparison to mask based devices.
Respiratory support 15
At high flow, HFNC may produce a degree of positive end expiratory pressure, particularly to
the soft tissues of the nasopharynx.
Comparison of HFNC with face mask and non-invasive positive pressure ventilation in a group
with hypoxaemic respiratory failure demonstrated no difference in the need for intubation, but
an apparent reduction in 90-day mortality for the HFNC group.
Frat J-P, Thille AW, Mercat A, et al. High-flow oxygen through nasal cannula in acute hypoxemic respiratory failure. New England Journal of Medicine 2015; 372:(23)2185–96.
3.2 Basic principles of mechanical ventilation
Mechanical ventilation is complex with significant variation in nomenclature between different
manufacturers. Several fundamental principles however apply universally.
3.2.1 Terms and definitions
For terms and definitions relating to mechanical ventilation see Table 1.4.
Table 1.4 Basic principles of mechanical ventilation
Active ventilator process; positive pressure is applied
to the airways. This is the reverse of physiological
conditions in which negative pressure causes
Passive process; elastic recoil of lung, rib, and soft tissue.
Tidal volume (Vt)
Volume of gas inspired/expired every respiratory cycle.
Frequency (f )
Number of respiratory cycles per minute.
Ratio of inspiration time to expiration time.
Inspiration time (Tinsp)
Time, in seconds spent in inspiration.
The proportion of Tinsp taken to reach target pressure
Positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP)
Airway pressure at the end of expiration.
Peak pressure (PPeak)
Maximum airway pressure measured in the respiratory
cycle. Usually taken to represent pressure applied to
the large airways (and is therefore influenced by airway
Plateau pressure (PPlat)
Airway pressure measured during an inspiratory pause.
Usually taken to represent the pressure applied to
3.2.2 Modes of ventilation
Many modes exist, which are classically described in terms control, cycle, and trigger.
● Control—determines the ‘target’ that the ventilator seeks to achieve; may be:
■ Volume—the operator determines the volume to be delivered; Paw is determined by
resistance and compliance.
■ Pressure—operator determines the pressure; resistance, compliance, and Tinsp