Increased end-expiratory pressures improve lung function in near-term newborn rabbits with elevated airway liquid volume at birth

Erin V. McGillick, Arjan B. te Pas, Michelle K. Croughan, Kelly J. Crossley, Megan J. Wallace, Katie Lee, Marta Thio, Philip L.J. DeKoninck, Janneke Dekker, Andreas W. Flemmer, Sophie J.E. Cramer, Stuart B. Hooper, Marcus J. Kitchen

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Approximately 53% of near-term newborns admitted to intensive care experience respiratory distress. These newborns are commonly delivered by cesarean section and have elevated airway liquid volumes at birth, which can cause respiratory morbidity. We investigated the effect of providing respiratory support with a positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 8 cmH2O on lung function in newborn rabbit kittens with elevated airway liquid volumes at birth. Near-term rabbits (30 days; term= 32 days) with airway liquid volumes that corresponded to vaginal delivery (_7 mL/kg, control, n = 11) or cesarean section [_37 mL/kg; elevated liquid (EL), n = 11] were mechanically ventilated (tidal volume = 8mL/kg). The PEEP was changed after lung aeration from 0 to 8 to 0 cmH2O (control, n = 6; EL, n = 6), and in a separate group of kittens, PEEP was changed after lung aeration from 8 to 0 to 8 cmH2O (control, n = 5; EL, n = 5). Lung function (ventilator parameters, compliance, lung gas volumes, and distribution of gas within the lung) was evaluated using plethysmography and synchrotron-based phase-contrast X-ray imaging. EL kittens initially receiving 0 cmH2O PEEP had reduced functional residual capacities and lung compliance, requiring higher inflation pressures to aerate the lung compared with control kittens. Commencing ventilation with 8 cmH2O PEEP mitigated the adverse effects of EL, increasing lung compliance, functional residual capacity, and the uniformity and distribution of lung aeration, but did not normalize aeration of the distal airways. Respiratory support with PEEP supports lung function in near-term newborn rabbits with elevated airway liquid volumes at birth who are at a greater risk of suffering respiratory distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1008
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2021


  • Lung aeration
  • Lung liquid
  • Newborn
  • Positive end-expiratory pressure
  • Term respiratory distress

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