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BackgroundPost-operative pulmonary complications (PPC) can develop in up to 13% of patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures and may adversely affect clinical outcome. The use of intraoperative lung protective ventilation (LPV) strategies, usually including the use of a low Vt, low PEEP and low plateau pressure, seem to reduce the risk of PPC and are strongly recommended in almost all surgical procedures. Nonetheless, feasibility of LPV strategies in neurosurgical patients are still debated because the use of low Vt during LPV might result in hypercapnia with detrimental effects on cerebrovascular physiology. Aim of our study was to determine whether LPV strategies would be feasible compared with a control group in adult patients undergoing cranial or spinal surgery.MethodsThis single-centre, pilot randomized clinical trial was conducted at the University Hospital "Maggiore della Carità" (Novara, Italy). Adult patients undergoing major cerebral or spinal neurosurgical interventions with risk index for pulmonary post-operative complications > 2 and not expected to need post-operative intensive care unit (ICU) admission were considered eligible. Patients were randomly assigned to either LPV (Vt = 6 ml/kg of ideal body weight (IBW), respiratory rate initially set at 16 breaths/min, PEEP at 5 cmH2O and application of a recruitment manoeuvre (RM) immediately after intubation and at every disconnection from the ventilator) or control treatment (Vt = 10 ml/kg of IBW, respiratory rate initially set at 6-8 breaths/min, no PEEP and no RM). Primary outcomes of the study were intraoperative adverse events, the level of cerebral tension at dura opening and the intraoperative control of PaCO2. Secondary outcomes were the rate of pulmonary and extrapulmonary complications, the number of unplanned ICU admissions, ICU and hospital lengths of stay and mortality.ResultsA total of 60 patients, 30 for each group, were randomized. During brain surgery, the number of episodes of intraoperative hypercapnia and grade of cerebral tension were similar between patients randomized to receive control or LPV strategies. No difference in the rate of intraoperative adverse events was found between groups. The rate of postoperative pulmonary and extrapulmonary complications and major clinical outcomes were similar between groups.ConclusionsLPV strategies in patients undergoing major neurosurgical intervention are feasible. Larger clinical trials are needed to assess their role in postoperative clinical outcome improvements.Trial registrationregistered on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry ( ), registration number ACTRN12615000707561.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC anesthesiology

Publication Date





Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, "Magna Graecia" University, Catanzaro, Italy.


Humans, Lung Diseases, Postoperative Complications, Respiration, Artificial, Hospitalization, Length of Stay, Intraoperative Care, Positive-Pressure Respiration, Neurosurgical Procedures, Pilot Projects, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Hospitals, University, Intensive Care Units, Italy, Female, Male