Context: A recent trial showed that placing patients with acute lung injury in the prone position did not increase survival; however, whether those results hold true for patients with hypoxemic acute respiratory failure (ARF) is unclear.
Objective: To determine whether prone positioning improves mortality in ARF patients.
Design, setting, and patients: Prospective, unblinded, multicenter controlled trial of 791 ARF patients in 21 general intensive care units in France using concealed randomization conducted from December 14, 1998, through December 31, 2002. To be included, patients had to be at least 18 years, hemodynamically stable, receiving mechanical ventilation, and intubated and had to have a partial pressure of arterial oxygen (PaO2) to fraction of inspired oxygen (FIO2) ratio of 300 or less and no contraindications to lying prone.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to prone position placement (n = 413), applied as early as possible for at least 8 hours per day on standard beds, or to supine position placement (n = 378).
Main outcome measures: The primary end point was 28-day mortality; secondary end points were 90-day mortality, duration of mechanical ventilation, incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), and oxygenation.
Results: The 2 groups were comparable at randomization. The 28-day mortality rate was 32.4% for the prone group and 31.5% for the supine group (relative risk [RR], 0.97; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79-1.19; P = .77). Ninety-day mortality for the prone group was 43.3% vs 42.2% for the supine group (RR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.84-1.13; P = .74). The mean (SD) duration of mechanical ventilation was 13.7 (7.8) days for the prone group vs 14.1 (8.6) days for the supine group (P = .93) and the VAP incidence was 1.66 vs 2.14 episodes per 100-patients days of intubation, respectively (P = .045). The PaO2/FIO2 ratio was significantly higher in the prone group during the 28-day follow-up. However, pressure sores, selective intubation, and endotracheal tube obstruction incidences were higher in the prone group.
Conclusions: This trial demonstrated no beneficial outcomes and some safety concerns associated with prone positioning. For patients with hypoxemic ARF, prone position placement may lower the incidence of VAP.