Pressure-controlled versus volume-controlled ventilation: Does it matter?
Volume-controlled ventilation (VCV) and pressure-controlled ventilation (PCV) are not different ventilatory modes, but are different control variables within a mode. Just as the debate over the optimal ventilatory mode continues, so too does the debate over the optimal control variable. VCV offers the safety of a pre-set tidal volume and minute ventilation but requires the clinician to appropriately set the inspiratory flow, flow waveform, and inspiratory time. During VCV, airway pressure increases in response to reduced compliance, increased resistance, or active exhalation and may increase the risk of ventilator-induced lung injury. PCV, by design, limits the maximum airway pressure delivered to the lung, but may result in variable tidal and minute volume. During PCV the clinician should titrate the inspiratory pressure to the measured tidal volume, but the inspiratory flow and flow waveform are determined by the ventilator as it attempts to maintain a square inspiratory pressure profile. Most studies comparing the effects of VCV and PCV were not well controlled or designed and offer little to our understanding of when and how to use each control variable. Any benefit associated with PCV with respect to ventilatory variables and gas exchange probably results from the associated decelerating-flow waveform available during VCV on many ventilators. Further, the beneficial characteristics of both VCV and PCV may be combined in so-called dual-control modes, which are volume-targeted, pressure-limited, and time-cycled. PCV offers no advantage over VCV in patients who are not breathing spontaneously, especially when decelerating flow is available during VCV. PCV may offer lower work of breathing and improved comfort for patients with increased and variable respiratory demand.