PEEP – a “cheap” and effective lung protection
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Mechanical ventilation is a complex therapy with several different parameters which can be altered. In preterm and term infants, more attention has been paid to the levels of peak inspiratory pressure than to the positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). An awareness that lung protection can be conferred by an appropriate level of PEEP has increasingly stimulated a renewed interest in achieving the "best PEEP" strategy. We review the history of the introduction of PEEP therapy, some of the early demonstrations of its potential for mischief, the evidence on what levels of PEEP are appropriate in infants, some data concerning the lung-protective value of PEEP and finally some recent efforts at defining measures to determine the so-called "best PEEP". Some of this work has been performed in adults with the acute respiratory distress syndrome. In newborns, we are regrettably forced to conclude that there is, for the immediate present, no easy substitute for sensible clinical observations coupled with a judicious and cautious adjustment of PEEP. We anticipate that a more logical application of PEEP with individualisation of therapy, based on a pressure-volume relationship, will in future enable targeted tests of PEEP as a lung-protection strategy.
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