Airway strain during mechanical ventilation in an intact animal model

Scott E. Sinclair, Robert C. Molthen, Steve T. Haworth, Christopher A. Dawson, Christopher M. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Rationale: Mechanical ventilation with large tidal volumes causes ventilator-induced lung injury in animal models. Little direct evidence exists regarding the deformation of airways in vivo during mechanical ventilation, or in the presence of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). Objectives: To measure airway strain and to estimate airway wall tension during mechanical ventilation in an intact animal model. Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized and mechanically ventilated with tidal volumes of 6, 12, and 25 cm3/kg with and without 10-cm H2O PEEP. Real-time tantalum bronchograms were obtained for each condition, using microfocal X-ray imaging. Images were used to calculate circumferential and longitudinal airway strains, and on the basis of a simplified mathematical model we estimated airway wall tensions. Measurements and Main Results: Circumferential and longitudinal airway strains increased with increasing tidal volume. Levels of mechanical strain were heterogeneous throughout the bronchial tree. Circumferential strains were higher in smaller airways (less than 800 μm). Airway size did not influence longitudinal strain. When PEEP was applied, wall tensions increasedmore rapidly than did strain levels, suggesting that a "strain limit" had been reached. Airway collapse was not observed under any experimental condition. Conclusions: Mechanical ventilation results in significant airway mechanical strain that is heterogeneously distributed in the uninjured lung. The magnitude of circumferential but not axial strain varies with airway diameter. Airways exhibit a "strain limit" above which an abrupt dramatic rise in wall tension is observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-794
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2007


  • Airway mechanics
  • Airway strain
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Ventilator-induced lung injury
  • Wall tension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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