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Vital capacity manoeuvre in general anaesthesia: useful or useless?

  • W. Oczenski (a1), S. Schwarz (a1) and R. D. Fitzgerald (a1)



As atelectasis occurs in most patients during general anaesthesia and may be one of the major causes for the development of hypoxaemia and nosocomial pneumonia, its prevention may be considered as an important objective in perioperative management. The major causative mechanisms are the loss of respiratory muscle tone, compression and gas absorption. Vital capacity manoeuvres have been proposed as a means to eliminate atelectasis in the vast majority of patients and restore normal pulmonary gas exchange during general anaesthesia. In this review we describe the pathogenesis of atelectasis in the perioperative period and discuss in the light of recent published investigations the suitability of the vital capacity manoeuvre as a tool during general anaesthesia. Reviewing the current literature, a vital capacity manoeuvre during general anaesthesia may only be useful under specific circumstances when mechanical ventilation with a high inspiratory fraction of oxygen is required or during cardiac surgery at the end of cardiopulmonary bypass to reduce the amount of atelectasis and to maintain adequate gas exchange.


Corresponding author

Correspondence to: Wolfgang Oczenski, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Economics of Medicine in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Vienna City Hospital-Lainz, Wolkersbergenstraβe 1, A-1130 Vienna, Austria. E-mail:; Tel: +43 1 80110 2701; Fax: +43 1 80110 2696


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Vital capacity manoeuvre in general anaesthesia: useful or useless?

  • W. Oczenski (a1), S. Schwarz (a1) and R. D. Fitzgerald (a1)


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