Gas Exchange in the Prone Posture.Respir Care. 2017 Aug; 62(8):1097-1110.RC
The prone posture is known to have numerous effects on gas exchange, both under normal conditions and in patients with ARDS. Clinical studies have consistently demonstrated improvements in oxygenation, and a multi-center randomized trial found that, when implemented within 48 h of moderate-to-severe ARDS, placing subjects in the prone posture decreased mortality. Improvements in gas exchange occur via several mechanisms: alterations in the distribution of alveolar ventilation, redistribution of blood flow, improved matching of local ventilation and perfusion, and reduction in regions of low ventilation/perfusion ratios. Ventilation heterogeneity is reduced in the prone posture due to more uniform alveolar size secondary to a more uniform vertical pleural pressure gradient. The prone posture results in more uniform pulmonary blood flow when compared with the supine posture, due to an anatomical bias for greater blood flow to dorsal lung regions. Because both ventilation and perfusion heterogeneity decrease in the prone posture, gas exchange improves. Other benefits include a more uniform distribution of alveolar stress, relief of left-lower-lobe lung compression by the heart, enhanced secretion clearance, and favorable right-ventricular and systemic hemodynamics.