Introduction: Prone ventilation improves oxygenation in selected patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). However, prone positioning of critically ill patients with multiple invasive lines and tubes is potentially dangerous. Trauma patients, in particular, may require special consideration because of skeletal fixation devices or prior operative procedures. Our objective was to critically evaluate our experience with prone positioning in patients with severe postinjury ARDS.
Methods: Injured patients admitted to our Level I trauma center who developed ARDS were prospectively identified. Serial lung injury severity and pulmonary mechanical data, as well as complications of prone ventilation were recorded.
Results: During the 12-month period ending August of 1998, nine patients with postinjury ARDS were treated with prone ventilation because of hypoxemia refractory to other ventilatory strategies. All patients suffered blunt trauma. Their mean age was 29 +/- 4.5 years; seven patients were men. The average Injury Severity Score was 26 +/- 5; and, at the time of prone positioning, the mean Lung Injury Score was 3.5. The mean PaO2/FIO2 ratio increased from 75 +/- 7 to 147 +/- 27 with prone ventilation (p < 0.05, paired t test); and in six patients, the FIO2 could be decreased. Four major complications occurred (44%). One patient experienced a midline abdominal wound dehiscence. Severe facial or upper chest wall pressure necrosis developed in two patients, despite extensive padding and careful attention to skin care. The fourth patient sustained a cardiac arrest immediately after prone positioning.
Conclusion: Prone ventilation in postinjury patients with ARDS may improve oxygenation but has the potential for significant complications. Careful consideration is required before prone positioning in this subset of patients.