Ventilator Waveforms

Matthew S. Mellema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Ventilator waveforms are graphic representations of changes in pressure, flow, and volume within a ventilator circuit. The changes in these parameters over time may be displayed individually (scalars) or plotted one against another (pressure-volume and flow-volume loops). There are 6 basic shapes of scalar waveforms, but only 3 are functionally distinct (square, ramp, and sine). The pressure scalar is a particularly valuable tool when constant flow (e.g., volume control) modes are employed and an inspiratory pause is added. In this setting, inspection of the pressure waveform can allow determination of static, quasistatic, and dynamic compliance, as well as relative changes in airway resistance. Inspection of the pressure waveform can also help to identify many important aspects of patient drug responses, dyssynchrony, and air trapping (auto positive end-expiratory pressure [auto-PEEP]). Depending on the ventilation mode employed, the shape of the flow waveform may be set by the ventilator operator or may be dependent on patient effort and lung mechanics. Decelerating flow patterns have several important advantages when this option is available. Inspection of flow waveforms is crucial in the recognition of dyssynchrony, setting optimal inspiratory times, evaluating responses to bronchodilators, and the recognition of auto-PEEP. The volume waveform often contains somewhat less useful information than the other 2 scalars, but plays a crucial role in the identification of leaks in the circuit. Pressure-volume loops are particularly useful in setting PEEP and peak inspiratory pressure ranges. Inspection of these loops also often helps in the evaluation of lung mechanics, in the identification of circuit leaks, and in the assessment of patient triggering effort. Flow-volume loops are extremely useful in the identification of leaks and excessive airway secretions as well as alterations in airway resistance. Lastly, serial waveform inspection is crucial to the identification and resolution of patient-ventilator dyssynchrony in many cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-123
Number of pages12
JournalTopics in Companion Animal Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Critical
  • Dyssynchrony
  • Graphics
  • Illness
  • Respiratory
  • Ventilation
  • Veterinary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals
  • Medicine(all)


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