Physiologic determinants of prolonged mechanical ventilation in patients after major surgery

Zuhal Karakurt, Francesco Fanfulla, Piero Ceriana, Annalisa Carlucci, Mario Grassi, Roberto Colombo, Sait Karakurt, Stefano Nava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of the study was to evaluate the physiologic determinants of ventilator dependency in patients who underwent major surgery. Materials and Methods: In this observational study, 43 stable tracheostomized patients undergoing prolonged ventilation (>14 days) were evaluated. Diaphragmatic muscle function was assessed invasively by the tension-time index of the diaphragm (TTdi), an indicator of diaphragm endurance time. The TTdi was calculated as transdiaphragmatic pressure/maximum transdiaphragmatic pressure × inspiratory time/total respiratory time and was recorded either when weaning from mechanical ventilation had finally been successful (n = 28 patients) or at the end of the fifth week in those patients in whom weaning failed (FW) (n = 15). Furthermore, the characteristics of survivors (n = 33) were compared with those of nonsurvivors (n = 10). Results: Successfully weaned patients had a lower breathing frequency/tidal volume or rapid shallow breathing index compared with FW patients (93.9 ± 45.5 vs 142.4 ± 60.3, respectively; P <.005). The TTdi was significantly higher in FW than in successfully weaned patients (0.107 ± 0.050 vs 0.148 ± 0.059; P <.023) and in nonsurvivors than in survivors (0.106 ± 0.046 vs 0.174 ± 0.058, P <.0001, respectively). A transdiaphragmatic pressure/maximum transdiaphragmatic pressure ratio of more than 40% was an independent predictor of mortality, whereas an increased frequency/tidal volume ratio and TTdi were independent predictors of weaning failure. Conclusions: Difficult-to-wean patients after major surgery have overall a limited diaphragm endurance time, in particular, FW breathe very close to the fatigue threshold, and they adopt a rapid shallow breathing respiratory pattern to avoid crossing this threshold.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Respiratory mechanics
  • Surgery
  • Weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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