Authors: Gattinoni L, Chiumello D, Caironi P, Busana M, Romitti F, Brazzi L

PMID: 32291463 PMCID: PMC7154064 DOI: 10.1007/s00134-020-06033-2


The Surviving Sepsis Campaign panel recently recommended that “mechanically ventilated patients with COVID-19 should be managed similarly to other patients with acute respiratory failure in the ICU.”

Yet, COVID-19 pneumonia, despite falling in most of the circumstances under the Berlin definition of ARDS, is a specific disease, whose distinctive features are severe hypoxemia often associated with near normal respiratory system compliance (more than 50% of the 150 patients measured by the authors and further confirmed by several colleagues in Northern Italy). This remarkable combination is almost never seen in severe ARDS. These severely hypoxemic patients despite sharing a single etiology (SARS-CoV-2) may present quite differently from one another: normally breathing (“silent” hypoxemia) or remarkably dyspneic; quite responsive to nitric oxide or not; deeply hypocapnic or normo/hypercapnic; and either responsive to prone position or not. Therefore, the same disease actually presents itself with impressive non-uniformity.

Based on detailed observation of several cases and discussions with colleagues treating these patients, we hypothesize that the different COVID-19 patterns found at presentation in the emergency department depend on the interaction between three factors: the severity of the infection, the host response, physiological reserve and comorbidities; the ventilatory responsiveness of the patient to hypoxemia; the time elapsed between the onset of the disease and the observation in the hospital. The interaction between these factors leads to the development of a time-related disease spectrum within two primary “phenotypes”: Type L, characterized by Low elastance (i.e., high compliance), Low ventilation-to-perfusion ratio, Low lung weight and Low recruitability and Type H, characterized by High elastance, High right-to-left shunt, High lung weight and High recruitability.

Keywords: COVID-19, pneumonia, respiratory

More on: MATH+

More on: COVID-19 | Pneumonia