Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 776–784 | Cite as

The concept of “baby lung”

  • Luciano GattinoniEmail author
  • Antonio Pesenti
Seminal Study



The “baby lung” concept originated as an offspring of computed tomography examinations which showed in most patients with acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome that the normally aerated tissue has the dimensions of the lung of a 5- to 6-year-old child (300–500 g aerated tissue).


The respiratory system compliance is linearly related to the “baby lung” dimensions, suggesting that the acute respiratory distress syndrome lung is not “stiff” but instead small, with nearly normal intrinsic elasticity. Initially we taught that the “baby lung” is a distinct anatomical structure, in the nondependent lung regions. However, the density redistribution in prone position shows that the “baby lung” is a functional and not an anatomical concept. This provides a rational for “gentle lung treatment” and a background to explain concepts such as baro- and volutrauma.


From a physiological perspective the “baby lung” helps to understand ventilator-induced lung injury. In this context, what appears dangerous is not the VT/kg ratio but instead the VT/”baby lung” ratio. The practical message is straightforward: the smaller the “baby lung,” the greater is the potential for unsafe mechanical ventilation.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome Baby lung Baro-/volutrauma Mechanical ventilation Respiratory system compliance Ventilator-induced lung injury 



We cannot list individually, but we are deeply indebted to the hundreds of incredible persons who have worked, contributed, and discussed with us over the past 30 years. Without them we could not have reached any result, great or small. Intensive care is founded not only on a “great idea” but on near-paranoid attention to detail and understanding of the minute-by-minute changes in patients’ physiology.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto di Anestesia e Rianimazione, Fondazione IRCCS, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, MangiagalliRegina Elena di Milano, Università degli StudiMilanItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Medicina Perioperatoria e Terapia Intensiva, A.O. Ospedale S.Gerardo MonzaUniversità degli StudiMilan-BicoccaItaly

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