International Perfusion Association


Maintaining Moderate Versus Lower PEEP After Cardiac Surgery: A Propensity-Scored Matched Analysis


Setting positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) at around 5 cm H2O in the early postoperative period seems a common practice for most patients. It remains unclear if the routine application of higher levels of PEEP confers any meaningful clinical benefit for cardiac surgical patients. The aim of this study was to compare moderate versus conventional lower PEEP on patient-centered outcomes in the intensive care unit (ICU).


This is a single-center retrospective study involving patients receiving cardiac surgery from June 2022 to May 2023. Propensity-score matching (PSM) was used to balance the baseline differences. Primary outcomes were the duration of mechanical ventilation and ICU length of stay. Secondary outcomes included PaO2/FiO2 ratio at 24 h and the need for prone positioning during ICU stay.


A total of 334 patients were included in the study, 102 (31%) of them received moderate PEEP (≥ 7 cm H2O) for the major time in the early postoperative period (12 h). After PSM, 79 pairs of patients were matched with balanced baseline data. The results showed that there was marginal difference in the distribution of mechanical ventilation duration (p = 0.05) and the Moderate PEEP group had a higher extubation rate at the day of T-piece trial (65 [82.3%] vs 52 [65.8%], p = 0.029). Applying moderate PEEP was also associated with better oxygenation. No differences were found regarding ICU length of stay and patients requiring prone positioning between groups.


In selective cardiac surgical patients, using moderate PEEP compared with conventional lower PEEP in the early postoperative period correlated to better oxygenation, which may have potential for earlier liberation of mechanical ventilation.

Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12871-024-02438-4.

Keywords: Cardiac surgery, Positive end-expiratory pressure, Mechanical ventilation, Intensive care unit, Propensity-score match

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