Lung stress and strain during mechanical ventilation: Any safe threshold?

Alessandro Protti, Massimo Cressoni, Alessandro Santini, Thomas Langer, Cristina Mietto, Daniela Febres, Monica Chierichetti, Silvia Coppola, Grazia Conte, Stefano Gatti, Orazio Leopardi, Serge Masson, Luciano Lombardi, Marco Lazzerini, Erica Rampoldi, Paolo Cadringher, Luciano Gattinoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Unphysiologic strain (the ratio between tidal volume and functional residual capacity) and stress (the transpulmonary pressure) can cause ventilator-induced lung damage. Objectives: To identify a strain-stress threshold (if any) above which ventilator-induced lung damage can occur. Methods: Twenty-nine healthy pigs were mechanically ventilated for 54 hours with a tidal volume producing a strain between 0.45 and 3.30. Ventilator-induced lung damage was defined as net increase in lung weight. Measurements and Main Results: Initial lung weight and functional residual capacity were measured with computed tomography. Final lung weight was measured using a balance. After setting tidal volume, data collection included respiratory system mechanics, gas exchange and hemodynamics (every 6 h); cytokine levels in serum (every 12 h) and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (end of the experiment); and blood laboratory examination (start and end of the experiment). Two clusters of animals could be clearly identified: animals that increased their lung weight (n=14) and those that did not (n = 15). Tidal volume was 38 ± 9 ml/kg in the former and 22 ± 8 ml/kg in the latter group, corresponding to a strain of 2.16 ± 0.58 and 1.29 ± 0.57 and a stress of 13 ± 5 and 8 ± 3 cm H2O, respectively. Lung weight gain was associated with deterioration in respiratory system mechanics, gas exchange, and hemodynamics, pulmonary and systemic inflammation and multiple organ dysfunction. Conclusions: In healthy pigs, ventilator-induced lung damage develops only when a strain greater than 1.5-2 is reached or overcome. Because of differences in intrinsic lung properties, caution is warranted in translating these findings to humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1354-1362
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 15 2011


  • Healthy lung
  • Lung strain
  • Lung stress
  • Tidal volume
  • Ventilator-induced lung injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Lung stress and strain during mechanical ventilation: Any safe threshold?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this