• Most reports describe reduction in proximal airway pressures with high-frequency jet ventilation. This led us to speculate that high-frequency jet ventilation might reduce barotrauma by providing alveolar ventilation at lower airway pressures. We describe a group of patients in whom a high incidence of barotrauma was observed after institution of high-frequency jet ventilation despite reduction in measured airway pressures. Fifteen hypoxic patients who could not be treated with conventional ventilation and who had no roentgenographic evidence of barotrauma were entered into the study. Airway pressures were measured during conventional ventilation and at 2 and 24 hours after high-frequency jet ventilation. Despite significant reduction in peak inspiratory and mean airway pressures, pneumothorax developed in seven of the 15 patients, an average of 21 hours after initiation of high-frequency jet ventilation. Five patients had bilateral pneumothorax and three developed tension pneumothorax. Despite reductions in proximal airway pressures, barotrauma is a significant potential complication of high-frequency jet ventilation in patients with noncompliant lungs. We currently place bilateral prophylactic thoracostomy tubes in patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome prior to initiation of high-frequency jet ventilation.
(Arch Surg. 1990;125:1542-1545)