Respiratory muscle function and lung and chest wall mechanics are reliably assessed by esophageal and gastric balloon catheters. The aim of this in vitro bench study was to assess the mechanical properties of commercially available balloon catheters using an experimental model with 3 defined compliances (27, 54, 90 mL/cm H2O).
Six catheters were investigated in 4 conditions: (1) balloon pressure during initial inflation, (2) static pressure measurements at different filling volumes, (3) estimation of set compliances in the experimental lung model at different levels of superimposed pressure, and (4) elastic balloon properties after 16 h of inflation.
5/6 catheters showed initial pressure artifacts resulting from material adhesion. All static pressure measurements could be performed with an error < 1 cm H2O. Balloon overfilling resulted in larger errors in 4/6 catheters. Compliance determined from pressure measurements via the catheters differed by < 5% from that determined from direct pressure measurements. Sixteen hours of inflation resulted in a broader working range, that is, overfilling effects occurred at higher filling volumes.
The reliability of pressure measurements and estimation of the lung model’s compliance in the tested catheters are high. Filling volume appears to be critical for precise pressure measurement and compliance estimation. At first use, adhesion of the balloon material might prevent reliable pressure measurement.