Ventilation of a simulated adult cardiac arrest patient by undergraduate Monash University paramedic students is better achieved by using a smaller self-inflating bag. Even when using the smaller self-inflating bag ventilation values were still predominately suboptimal.
It is now well supported that the delivery of ventilation using a self-inflating bag is erratic and uncontrolled by all disciplines, not just prehospital care providers[6, 10–12, 1] Pitts and Kellermann proposed that hyperventilation is inevitable in real life situations and is perhaps not rescuer training that requires re-visiting, rather controlling operator emotions at the time of the incident... "When the alarm sounds, we rush to the scene uncertain of what we will find. The suddenness of these events and the high stakes involved produces an adrenaline-driven arousal response. As a result, we do everything fast, including, perhaps, bag-valve ventilation."  In an effort to exclude the emotion that is often associated with real-life circumstances, this study explored the degree of suboptimal ventilation within the control of a simulated clinical scenario.
We found that 77% (n = 23) of participants who used the 1600 ml bag and 70% (n = 21) of participants using the smaller bag were unable to reach the target ventilation rate of 8–10 VPM. Other authors have documented similar trends in ventilation rates during CPR. Aufderheide and colleagues found mean ventilation rates to be as high as 30 VPM in 7 men undergoing CPR with an advanced airway, while other authors have observed rates as high as 70 VPM by some emergency care providers . In a more recent study, emergency department personnel were observed to have ventilated 12 cardiac arrest patients at a median rate of 21 VPM
Based on ILCOR's recommendation of 6 – 7 ml/kg, we observed that suboptimal tidal volumes could be reduced by 27% if operators used a smaller 1000 ml capacity bag. Ninety-seven percent (n = 29) of all participants were unable to ventilate within the recommended tidal volume for the simulated patient when using the conventional 1600 ml bag – a potentially catastrophic outcome for cardiac arrest patients in the field. A similar result was found with minute volumes, with the level of suboptimal ventilation reducing from 93% in participants using the 1600 ml bag to 70% (n = 21) in participants using the smaller 1000 ml bag (p = 0.045).
Doerges and colleagues were one of the first to query the difficulty in reaching new ventilation targets with current capacity adult bags. Their study found that ventilation using an adult capacity bag via an advanced airway usually resulted in tidal volumes as high as 1000 ml and often over-shooting the recommended 400–600 ml by the ERC Mean minute volumes of almost 20 litres were also noted with the use of a large bag. When compared to a paediatric 700 ml bag, they found that they were able to reduce tidal volumes to a mean of 389 ml ± 113 and therefore significantly reducing the incidence of hyperventilation A follow-up study showed that a medium sized adult bag (1100 ml) could provide a mean tidal volume of 623 ml ± 26 when used in conjunction with an intubating LMA This produced a statistically significant difference when compared to the use of a conventional 1500 ml bag (741 ml ± 33). Other authors have demonstrated similar difficulties in achieving guideline consistent ventilations during CPR, with some minute volumes peaking at 21.3 litres
In accordance with manufacturer specifications, the smaller 1000 ml capacity bag produces a maximum functional output of 750 ml – a characteristic that is likely to completely eliminate the incidence of overzealous volumes in excess of 1000 ml. With research suggesting that current capacity bags are likely to result in hyperventilation, we can also demonstrate an association to life-threatening secondary complications such as gastric insufflation, regurgitation, aspiration and barotrauma While the effects of hypoxia and hypocapnia have proven to reduce the survivability of patients with severe head injury, the effect of suboptimal ventilation on outcomes for cardiac arrest patients are nowbeginning to demonstrate similar outcomes for swine models in cardiac arrest It is now becoming more evident that "larger tidal volumes and ventilation rates can be associated with complications, whereas the detrimental effects observed with smaller tidal volumes appear to be acceptable."
The results from this study have provided teaching staff with evidence to assist them in improving student ventilation during clinical simulation sessions. The findings from this study also highlight the need to investigate the ventilation ability of practicing Victorian paramedics.
This study is potentially limited due to its use of a mechanical lung model to depict the normal function and characteristic of a human lung under cardiac arrest conditions. Factors such as lower oesophageal sphincter pressure, peak airway pressure, peak airway flow and inspiratory time are all pertinent anomalies affecting ventilation accuracy in the setting of cardiac arrest. These factors were not investigated in this simulated model, and therefore consideration of these confounders must be taken before generalising results to human populations. Tidal volumes and ventilation rate were recorded using an analogue scale which requires accurate reading from a scale during the ventilation process. Therefore, human error in recording the value cannot be totally excluded.