Measuring Functional Residual Capacity in Ventilated Patients– Functional Residual Capacity (FRC) is a measurement of the reservoir of air that keeps lungs oxygenated after a normal exhalation. In mechanically ventilated patients, FRC measures actual lung volume. Although FRC is a vital indicator of acute lung pathology, until recently, FRC could not be measured directly—only estimated through indirect methods. Today’s technological advances that enable direct measurement should eliminate the barriers that previously existed in routinely using this parameter in clinical decision-making. Serial FRC measurements provide valuable information regarding disease progression/resolution, optimization of PEEP, and prevention of ventilator-induced lung injury. Clinicians need to be aware that many factors besides disease pathology affect FRC, including prone positioning, recruitment maneuvers, suctioning, and weaning. Direct FRC monitoring is an underutilized tool that can help manage many ventilated patients with developing or resolving acute respiratory illnesses.
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