Background: Although it is recognized that pulmonary hysteresis can influence the effects of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP), the extent to which expansion of previously opened (vs. newly opening) peripheral airspaces contribute to increased lung volume is unknown.
Methods: Following a recruitment maneuver, rats were ventilated with constant tidal volumes and imaged during ascending and descending ramps of PEEP.
Results: The authors estimated peripheral airspace dimensions by measuring the apparent diffusion coefficient of 3He in 10 rats. In a separate group (n = 5) undergoing a similar protocol, the authors used computerized tomography to quantify lung volume. Hysteresis was confirmed by larger end-inspiratory lung volume (mean ± SD; all PEEP levels included): 8.4 ± 2.8 versus 6.8 ± 2.0 ml (P < 0.001) and dynamic compliance: 0.52 ± 0.12 versus 0.42 ± 0.09 ml/cm H2O (P < 0.001) during descending versus ascending PEEP ramps. Apparent diffusion coefficient increased with PEEP, but it was smaller during the descending versus ascending ramps for corresponding levels of PEEP: 0.168 ± 0.019 versus 0.183 ± 0.019 cm2/s (P < 0.001). Apparent diffusion coefficient was smaller in the posterior versus anterior lung regions, but the effect of PEEP and hysteresis on apparent diffusion coefficient was greater in the posterior regions.
Conclusions: The authors’ study results suggest that in healthy lungs, larger lung volumes due to hysteresis are associated with smaller individual airspaces. This may be explained by opening of previously nonaerated peripheral airspaces rather than expansion of those already aerated. Setting PEEP on a descending ramp may minimize distension of individual airspaces.