ARDSnet Ventilation Strategy


The ARDSNet ARMA study is one of the pivotal clinical trials in critical care and established the current standard of care for mechanical ventilation

  • key study underpinning the protective lung ventilation approach, which has since been extended to the safe ventilation of non-ARDS patients
  • provides a sliding scale approach to the optimisation of FiO2 and PEEP, based on oxygenation (though the optimisation of PEEP is controversial)
  • ARDSnet Ventilation Strategy is practical and can be used at the bedside
  • Open lung approaches to ventilation typically use higher PEEP settings than the ARDSnet Ventilation Strategy


Note that the definitions of ALI and ARDS have been revised – however they are included here as they were used in the ARDSNet trial. See ARDS Definitions.

Acute lung injury (ALI)

  • acute onset
  • PaO2/FiO2 ratio < 300
  • bilateral infiltrates consistent with pulmonary oedema
  • no evidence of LA hypertension

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

  • acute onset
  • PaO2/FiO2 ratio < 200
  • bilateral infiltrates consistent with pulmonary oedema
  • no evidence of LA hypertension

Protective lung ventilation

  • synonymous with low tidal volume (TV) ventilation (4-8 mL/kg) and maintaining plateau pressures (Pplat) <30 cmH20, and often includes permissive hypercapnia
  • 6 mL/kg PBW (predicted body weight, not actual body weight) is most commonly quoted as this was used in the intervention arm of the practice defining ARDSNet ARMA trial and is physiologically normal for a healthy person

Predicted body weight (PBW)

  • PBW calculated as follows:
    • Adult male: 50 + 0.91 (Height cm −152.4)
    • Adult female: 45 + 0.91 (Height cm −152.4)


Ventilator Setup and Adjustment

  • calculate predicted body weight (PBW)
  • select any ventilator mode
  • achieve a TV of 6mL/kg
  • set respiratory rate (RR) to maintain optimal minute ventilation (MV) (not RR > 35/min)
  • aim for SpO2 88-95% or PaO2 55-80mmHg
  • increase PEEP with increasing FiO2 (5-24 cmH2O) according to a sliding scale (see table below)
  • aim for plateau pressure (Pplat) <30cmH2O
    • if necessary decrease TV stepwise by 1 mL/kg PBW to a minimum of 4 mL/kg PBW
    • If Pplat < 25 cmH20, increase TV stepwise by 1 mL/kg PBW until Pplat >25 cmH20 or TV of 6 mL/kg PBW
    • Pplat >30 cmH20 allowed if TV 4 mL/kg IBW and pH <7.15
    • TV could be increased up to 8 mL/kg PBW for patients with severe dyspnoea if Pplat maintained <30 cmH20
  • pH goal = 7.30-7.45
    • if pH < 7.15 increase TV, give NaHCO3
Paired FiO2 and PEEP settings
FiO2 PEEP (cmH20)


  • criteria for weaning:
    • FiO2 < 0.40
    • PEEP < 8 cmH20
    • patient has acceptable breathing efforts
    • SBP > 90 mmHg without pressors
  • if criteria met conduct a Spontaneous Breathing Trial:
    • T-piece, trache collar or pressure support of <5/5 cmH20
    • -aim for 120 minutes
    • -assess for failure
      • HR > 120%
      • Accessory muscle use
      • Abdominal paradox
      • Sweating
      • Marked dyspnoea


Journal articles

  • ARDSNet. Ventilation with lower tidal volumes as compared with traditional tidal volumes for acute lung injury and the acute respiratory distress syndrome. The Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Network. N Engl J Med. 2000 May 4;342(18):1301-8. [pubmed]

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Critical Care


Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

One comment

  1. This is very nice presentation very practical and updated…..Thank you very much for enriching our minds with knowledge

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