How is intubation and mechanical ventilation used in the treatment of sepsis/septic shock?

Updated: Oct 07, 2020
  • Author: Andre Kalil, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Most patients with sepsis develop respiratory distress as a manifestation of sepsis or septic shock. The lung injury is characterized pathologically as diffuse alveolar damage (DAD) and ranges from acute lung injury (ALI)—or mild ARDS, by the Berlin Definition [10] —to moderate or severe ARDS (see Background). These patients need intubation and mechanical ventilation for optimal respiratory support. Intubation should be considered early in the course of progressing sepsis and septic shock.

Direct delivery of oxygen into the trachea at a fraction of inspired oxygen (FIO2) of 1 is far superior to delivery via a nonrebreather oxygen mask. Mechanical ventilation, with appropriate sedation, also eliminates the work of breathing as well as decreases the metabolic demands of breathing, which accounts for about 30% of total metabolic demand at baseline. [73]

Alveolar overdistention and repetitive opening and closing of alveoli during mechanical ventilation have been associated with an increased incidence of ARDS. Low−tidal volume ventilatory strategies have been used to minimize this type of alveolar injury. The recommended tidal volume is 6 mL/kg, with plateau pressures kept at or below 30 mL water. [11, 60] Positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) is required to prevent alveolar collapse at end-expiration. [74]

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