Additional work of breathing imposed by endotracheal tubes, breathing circuits, and intensive care ventilators

Andrew D. Bersten, Albert J. Rutten, Alnis E. Vedig, George A. Skowronski

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102 Citations (Scopus)


A disadvantage of spontaneous breathing through an endotracheal tube (ETT) and connector attached to a breathing circuit and/or ventilator (breathing device) is an increase in the work of breathing. The work of breathing associated with ETT of 6 to 9-mm diameter and eight breathing devices was determined, using a lung simulator to mimic spontaneous inspiration at flow rates of 20 to 100 L/min and a tidal volume of 500 ml, at both zero end-expiratory pressure (ZEEP) and 10 cm H2O continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Work associated with the breathing devices alone (WCIR) ranged from -0.002 kg·m/L (Servo 900-C ventilator, 7-mm ETT, 20 L/min, ZEEP) to 0.1 kg·m/L (continuous flow circuit, 7-mm ETT, 100 L/min, CPAP), the latter representing 196% of the work of normal breathing. When the devices were attached to ETT, total apparatus work (WAPP) ranged from 0.009 kg·m/L (Mapleson-D circuit, 9-mm ETT, 20 L/min, ZEEP) to 0.25 kg·m/L (Drager EV-A, 6-mm ETT, 100 L/min, ZEEP), the latter representing 490% of the work of normal breathing. This additional work imposed by the ETT varied considerably among devices. Spontaneous breathing through modern ventilators, circuits and ETT imposes a burden of increased work, most of which is associated with the presence of the ETT and connector. Whether this burden represents an impediment to the weaning patient, or has training value for the ultimate resumption of unassisted spontaneous ventilation, remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-677
Number of pages7
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes


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