General anesthesia may cause atelectasis and deterioration in oxygenation in obese patients. The authors hypothesized that individualized positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) improves intraoperative oxygenation and ventilation distribution compared to fixed PEEP.


This secondary analysis included all obese patients recruited at University Hospital of Leipzig from the multicenter Protective Intraoperative Ventilation with Higher versus Lower Levels of Positive End-Expiratory Pressure in Obese Patients (PROBESE) trial (n = 42) and likewise all obese patients from a local single-center trial (n = 54). Inclusion criteria for both trials were elective laparoscopic abdominal surgery, body mass index greater than or equal to 35 kg/m2, and Assess Respiratory Risk in Surgical Patients in Catalonia (ARISCAT) score greater than or equal to 26. Patients were randomized to PEEP of 4 cm H2O (n = 19) or a recruitment maneuver followed by PEEP of 12 cm H2O (n = 21) in the PROBESE study. In the single-center study, they were randomized to PEEP of 5 cm H2O (n = 25) or a recruitment maneuver followed by individualized PEEP (n = 25) determined by electrical impedance tomography. Primary endpoint was Pao2/inspiratory oxygen fraction before extubation and secondary endpoints included intraoperative tidal volume distribution to dependent lung and driving pressure.


Ninety patients were evaluated in three groups after combining the two lower PEEP groups. Median individualized PEEP was 18 (interquartile range, 16 to 22; range, 10 to 26) cm H2O. Pao2/inspiratory oxygen fraction before extubation was 515 (individual PEEP), 370 (fixed PEEP of 12 cm H2O), and 305 (fixed PEEP of 4 to 5 cm H2O) mmHg (difference to individualized PEEP, 145; 95% CI, 91 to 200; P < 0.001 for fixed PEEP of 12 cm H2O and 210; 95% CI, 164 to 257; P < 0.001 for fixed PEEP of 4 to 5 cm H2O). Intraoperative tidal volume in the dependent lung areas was 43.9% (individualized PEEP), 25.9% (fixed PEEP of 12 cm H2O) and 26.8% (fixed PEEP of 4 to 5 cm H2O) (difference to individualized PEEP: 18.0%; 95% CI, 8.0 to 20.7; P < 0.001 for fixed PEEP of 12 cm H2O and 17.1%; 95% CI, 10.0 to 20.6; P < 0.001 for fixed PEEP of 4 to 5 cm H2O). Mean intraoperative driving pressure was 9.8 cm H2O (individualized PEEP), 14.4 cm H2O (fixed PEEP of 12 cm H2O), and 18.8 cm H2O (fixed PEEP of 4 to 5 cm H2O), P < 0.001.


This secondary analysis of obese patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery found better oxygenation, lower driving pressures, and redistribution of ventilation toward dependent lung areas measured by electrical impedance tomography using individualized PEEP. The impact on patient outcome remains unclear.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Optimal methods for preserving lung function in obese patients remain controversial.
  • Previous studies in laparoscopic abdominal surgery have focused on the use of different levels of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP; either fixed or individualized based on measures of distribution of ventilation or lung compliance) with or without use of recruitment maneuvers.
  • Electrical impedance tomography is a real time tool that allows visualization of distribution of ventilation and calculation of indices of regional inhomogeneity of ventilation, which may predict postoperative lung function.
  • The authors combined the locally acquired data from two randomized controlled trials of such patients, an earlier physiologic study and a later subset of patients from a large multinational study (PROBESE) evaluating as a primary outcome oxygenation (Pao2/Fio2 ratio). They compared high or low fixed PEEP levels with or without recruitment and individualized PEEP using electrical impedance tomography.
What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • Individualized positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP; median 18 cm H20) was superior to either fixed low levels (4 to 5 cm H20) or a higher level (12 cm H20 with recruitment) with regards to oxygenation, driving pressures, and indices of regional ventilation.
  • Despite improvement in lung function, no differences in postoperative pulmonary complications were observed. However, this cohort was not adequately powered for clinical outcomes.