It is not known whether positive end-expiratory airway pressure (PEEP) merely improves gas exchange in patients with the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) or if it also affects the resolution of their lung injury. The present investigation was performed to determine whether expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP), a form of PEEP, is prophylactic in preventing the lung injury induced by oleic acid in dogs or in enhancing its resolution. Arterial and mixed venous blood gases and functional residual capacity (FRC) were measured in 14 pairs of mongrel dogs with indwelling catheters and permanent tracheostomies. One member of each pair was treated with 10 cm H2O EPAP through a valve attached to the tracheostomy tube. Both dogs received 0.06 ml/kg oleic acid intravenously at hour 0. Measurements were made at three, 12, and 24 hours, when EPAP was discontinued, and over the next six days. Five dog pairs were sacrificed at 72 hours; the other surviving animals were sacrificed at 168 hours. FRC was higher at three, 12, and 24 hours in dogs receiving EPAP than in the untreated dogs. The arterial oxygen tension (PaO2) was higher and the venous admixture (Qva/Qt) was lower at three and 12 hours in the dogs receiving EPAP than in the untreated dogs. However, after 24 hours, no differences were noted between the two groups in FRC, PaO2, Qav/Qt, mortality, final lung compliance to initial lung compliance differences, lung water to dry lung weight ratios, or histology. It is concluded that EPAP improves gas exchange during its administration, but has no demonstrable prophylactic effect on the resolution of lung injury in the oleic acid model of human ARDS
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