High airway pressure DDx


High airway pressures in the intubated patient can signify the presence of a life-threatening emergency. The underlying cause is either with the ‘man or the machine‘ (patient versus equipment). A structured approach to this problem is essential.



  • Ventilator
    • inappropriate settings
    • ventilator malfunction
  • Circuit
    • kinking
    • pooling of condensed water vapour
    • wet filters causing increased resistance
  • Endotracheal tube
    • displacement, e.g. endobronchial intubation
    • kinking
    • obstruction with foreign material


  • bronchospasm (e.g. asthma)
  • decreased compliance
    • lung  (e.g. collapse, consolidation, pulmonary edema)
    • pleural  (e.g. pneumothorax, pleural effusion)
    • chest wall (e.g. abdominal distention, kyhposcoliosis, obesity)
    • patient-ventilator dysynchrony, coughing

References and Links


Social Media and other Web Resources

CCC 700 6

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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.