A comparison of volume targeted ventilation modes with traditional pressure limited ventilation modes for newborn babies

Preterm babies may need help to breathe. The risk of lung problems increases with increasing immaturity. For some babies, the assistance of a ventilator (breathing machine) can be life saving, however ventilators may also injure the baby’s immature lungs. New ‘volume targeted’ modes of ventilation have been developed which aim to reduce lung injury by controlling the amount of air entering the lungs with each breath. This review has compared the outcome of infants ventilated with volume targeted modes, with infants ventilated using traditional ‘pressure limited’ modes.

Babies ventilated using volume targeted modes of ventilation were more likely to survive free of lung damage. They needed ventilator assistance for a shorter duration and were less likely to develop pneumothorax (a condition when air escapes from the lung into the chest). They had more stable carbon dioxide levels in the blood, and had fewer brain ultrasound abnormalities. There was no evidence that volume targeted modes were more likely to harm the baby than traditional modes. More research is needed to understand whether volume targeted modes also lead to improvements in the development of movement and intellect. More research is also needed comparing different volume targeting techniques.

Authors' conclusions: 

Infants ventilated using VTV modes had reduced death and chronic lung disease compared with infants ventilated using PLV modes. Further studies are needed to identify whether VTV modes improve neurodevelopmental outcomes and to compare and refine VTV strategies.

Read the full abstract...

Damage caused by lung overdistension (volutrauma) has been implicated in the development bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Modern neonatal ventilation modes can target a set tidal volume as an alternative to traditional pressure-limited ventilation using a fixed inflation pressure. Volume targeting aims to produce a more stable tidal volume in order to reduce lung damage and stabilise pCO2


To determine whether volume-targeted ventilation (VTV) compared with pressure-limited ventilation (PLV) leads to reduced rates of death and BPD in newborn infants. Secondary objectives were to determine whether use of VTV affected outcomes including air leak, cranial ultrasound findings and neurodevelopment.

Search strategy: 

The search strategy comprised searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE PubMed 1966 to January 2010, and hand searches of reference lists of relevant articles and conference proceedings.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised and quasi-randomised trials comparing the use of volume-targeted versus pressure-limited ventilation in infants of less than 28 days corrected age.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors assessed the methodological quality of eligible trials and extracted data independently. When appropriate, meta-analysis was conducted to provide a pooled estimate of effect. For categorical data the relative risk (RR) and risk difference (RD) were calculated with 95% confidence intervals. Number needed to treat was calculated when RD was statistically significant. Continuous data were analysed using weighted mean difference.

Main results: 

Twelve randomised trials met our inclusion criteria; nine parallel trials (629 infants) and three crossover trials (64 infants).

The use of VTV modes resulted in a reduction in the combined outcome of death or bronchopulmonary dysplasia [typical RR 0.73 (95% CI 0.57 to 0.93), NNT8 (95% CI 5 to 33)]. VTV modes also resulted in reductions in pneumothorax [typical RR 0.46 (95% CI 0.25 to 0.84), NNT 17 (95% CI 10 to 100)], days of ventilation [MD -2.36 (95% CI -3.9 to -0.8)], hypocarbia [typical RR 0.56 (95%CI 0.33 to 0.96), NNT 4 (95% CI 2 to 25)] and the combined outcome of periventricular leukomalacia or grade 3-4 intraventricular haemorrhage [typical RR 0.48 (95% CI 0.28 to 0.84), NNT 11 (95% CI 7 to 50)].