Mission of APRV Network

The APRV Network was established in 2017 to provide a portal for accurate, up-to-date information and improve the understanding and application of Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) using the Time Controlled Adaptive Ventilation (TCAV) Method. Our mission is to advance the science and heighten our comprehension of the mechanistic aspects of lung–ventilator interactions. New knowledge and a greater understanding of the problem leads us to the safer application of mechanical ventilation and prevention of ventilator related lung dysfunction. We aspire to bring a community together to engage in knowledge transfer, share experiences to foster discussion and stimulate debate. Ultimately, the vision of The APRV Network is to advance care for critically ill patients worldwide.

History of APRV

In 1971 a University of Florida Philosophy Professor, while driving was hit broadside by a drunk driver. He was admitted to the surgical intensive care unit, where I was the Critical Care Fellow. I had just learned to calculate right-to-left intrapulmonary shunt fraction from Jay Block, MD, the head of Pulmonary Medicine at UF. The calculation necessitated mixed venous blood, so the Chief resident in CV Surgery and I inserted the first Swan Ganz catheter ever used at UF. Arterial and venous blood samples were collected while the patient was receiving 8 cmH2O PEEP. For comparison purposes, PEEP was raised to 12 cmH2O, the maximum allowable level, and shunt decreased significantly.Surprisingly, the arterial-venous O2 content difference decreased, indicating an increase in cardiac output. It was 3AM, I was the only physician in the unit and it occurred to me that a further increase in PEEP might be beneficial. PEEP was raised to 15 cmH2O, with the same result previously observed.

As a consequence of both A-V O2 content and shunt decreasing, PaO2 rose dramatically,
allowing inspired O2 to be decreased from 100% to 40%. A further increase in PEEP to 18
cmH2O resulted in even more improvement. The next morning, I presented the case to our
Visiting Professor Henrik Bendixen, MD, who had just left the Massachusetts General Hospital
to be Chair of Anesthesiology at UC San Diego. He was a co-founder of the Respiratory
Intensive Care Unit at MGH and coauthored the “Bible” of respiratory Care. He was very
generous in his praise for my daring at exceeding the guidelines for PEEP, which largely
emanated from The MGH RICU, and suggested that I collect a series of patients and publish
the results, which I did in 1973 (Anesth Analg 52:210-214, 1973). Also, in 1973 I also
published the paper describing IMV. Unfortunately, I chose to introduce IMV as a weaning
technique, even though I had progressed to using it as a ventilatory support mode that
allowed patients to breathe spontaneously, while receiving ventilatory assistance (Chest
64:331-335, 1973). In August of 1973, following my Critical Care Fellowship, I was assigned
as the Officer in Charge of the surgical ICU at Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB,
San Antonio, TX. My Commanding Officer, Colonel Joseph Dannemiller gave me free reign over
the unit and I began treating patients with IMV and the level of PEEP that minimized
shunting, without decreasing cardiac output. We added continuous flow to the ventilator
circuit, so that CPAP, rather than PEEP, was provided. A middle-aged lady from Laredo, TX,
who developed septicemia following a cholecystectomy, came to us in severe respiratory
failure with a P/F ratio of 75 mmHg. We aggressively resuscitated her, treated her with IMV,
spontaneous respiration and 22 mmHg (31 cmH2O) CPAP with no detriment to her cardiac output.
Her case report became the first of a series of publications describing the use of IMV,
spontaneous breathing and high levels of CPAP (Anesth Analg 54:31-34, 1975). Over the next
two years we had opportunity to treat 54 patients with severe ARDS, whose P/F ratio averaged
80 mmHg, with a minimum of 27 cmH2O CPAP. Our 3-month survival was 80% and 13 patients
returned to Wilford Hall for pulmonary function testing, which revealed minimal long-lasting
lung injury, with the exception of reduced diffusion capacity (Chest 71:18-23, 1977).
Following my USAF service, I returned to UF to run the first VA Hospital Surgical ICU
Service in the Country. Our results with high CPAP levels and IMV led to more than a decade
of controversy, contentious debate and, in some cases, general disbelief. In 1980, I left
Gainesville, FL and UF for a quasi-private practice in Urbana, IL. The long Winters and an
abundance of free time gave me ample opportunity for contemplation. Obviously, when
expiratory airway pressure is nearly 30 cmH2O, peak airway pressure during mandatory
(mechanical) breaths is necessarily higher than what would be considered injurious by
today’s standards. We rarely, if ever, saw the ventilator induced lung injury (VILI)
commonly spoken of, now, likely because the high levels of CPAP maintained an open-lung and
avoided the repetitive collapse and tearing open caused by current ARDSNet strategy using
low levels (20 cmH2O) of PEEP. In spite of success in treating patients with ARDS, (improved
gas exchange, decreased time on the ventilator and 80% survival) it was that a method of
ventilation that could avoid high airway pressures, would be desirable. As often is the case
with sudden enlightenment, a question occurred to me one night, “if I can provide CPAP and
ventilate patients with a positive pressure breath on top of the CPAP, why not simply
decrease the CPAP briefly, say, for one second and allow the patient to exhale carbon
dioxide?” That seemed very intuitive. Then followed the difficult tasks of a name for this
new mode of ventilatory support and the methodology to provide it. I discussed these
problems with Robert Kirby, MD, a former teacher and coauthor, Michal Douglas, MD, a former
resident, colleague and coauthor and M. Christine Stock, MD, a Northwestern anesthesiology
resident and frequent coauthor, who later became my Critical Care Fellow. All agreed the
concept seemed rational. In 1985 I moved to Ohio State University to be Director of Research
for the Department of Anesthesiology. With the assistance of Gerald McGinnis, Roger
Dzwonczyk (both brilliant engineers) and Chris Stock, we were able to build a simple CPAP
circuit, with an exhalation valve that would momentarily release the airway pressure. Thus,
the name airway pressure release ventilation (APRV). A patent was applied for and granted in
1986, this in an attempt to prevent slip shod devices that failed, (as occurred with IMV on
multiple occasions and publications) from allowing naysayers to claim the technique didn’t
work (as also occurred, then and now, with IMV). Dr. Stock and I first tested the device on
each other, before proceeding to test the device on normal and lung injured animals. Shortly
thereafter, we published the favorable results of ventilating post cardiac surgical
patients, comparing assist-control ventilation with APRV (Chest 94:779-781, 1988). The
Editor Will Shoemaker, MD put the editorial introducing APRV (Crit Care Med 15: 459-461,
1987) just before the scientific proof of concept (Crit Care Med 15:462-466, 1987), in order
that I could be the one to introduce the concept (editorials were placed in the back of the
Journal in those days). Immediately, publications appeared claiming APRV was nothing more
than pressure limited mechanical ventilation, or inverse ratio ventilation and unlikely to
be of any value. Those critical of APRV then and now totally missed the concept of an open
lung ventilation strategy that permits spontaneous breathing, impossible with both pressure
controlled and Inverse I:E ratio ventilation. Ironically, over thirty years of validation in
both animal models and human subjects with severe ARDS have not decreased the fervor with
which APRV is resisted by some clinicians, most of whom have never used the technique and
who have little understanding of the physiologic effects. As IMV was resisted as an
“unproven weaning technique”, APRV now is resisted as an unproven “rescue modality.” Both
are modes of ventilation, that by permitting unrestricted spontaneous ventilation, promote
venous return, cardiac output, patient comfort, less sedation and almost always, no need for
paralysis. Hopefully, the chronology of the events will promote some greater understanding
of both IMV and APRV. John B. Downs, MD, FCCM, FCCP

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Meet the APRV Network Team

John Doe

Nader M. Habashi


I am a Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Attending Physician on the Multi-trauma Critical Care Unit and the Clinical Medical Director of the Respiratory Therapy Department at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, MD. I remain actively involved in clinical and laboratory research [at the SUNY Upstate Cardiopulmonary Lab] with an interest in mechanical ventilation and a particular focus on ARDS and the application of a Time Controlled Adaptive Ventilation strategy using APRV to prevent ARDS.

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
― Albert Einstein

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