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Controlled Mechanical Ventilation may be essential in the setting of severe respiratory failure but consequences to the patient including increased use of sedation and neuromuscular blockade may contribute to delirium, atelectasis, and diaphragm dysfunction. Assisted ventilation allows spontaneous breathing activity to restore physiological displacement of the diaphragm and recruit better perfused lung regions. Pressure Support Ventilation is the most frequently used mode of assisted mechanical ventilation. However, this mode continues to provide a monotonous pattern of support for respiration which is normally a dynamic process. Noisy Pressure Support Ventilation where tidal volume is varied randomly by the ventilator may improve ventilation and perfusion matching but the degree of support is still determined by the ventilator. Two more recent modes of ventilation, Proportional Assist Ventilation and Neurally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist (NAVA), allow patient determination of the pattern and depth of ventilation. Proposed advantages of Proportional Assist Ventilation and NAVA include decrease in patient ventilator asynchrony and improved adaptation of ventilator support to changing patient demand. Work of breathing can be normalized with these modes as well. To date, however, a clear pattern of clinical benefit has not been demonstrated. Existing challenges for both of the newer assist modes include monitoring patients with dynamic hyperinflation (auto-positive end expiratory pressure), obstructive lung disease, and air leaks in the ventilator system. NAVA is dependent on consistent transduction of diaphragm activity by an electrode system placed in the esophagus. Longevity of effective support with this technique is unclear.
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