Use of sedatives, opioids, and neuromuscular blocking agents in patients with acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome

Crit Care Med. 2008 Apr;36(4):1083-8. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0B013E3181653895.


Objective: The use of sedatives, opioids, and neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) may delay weaning and prolong intensive care unit length of stay. We hypothesized that in patients on higher positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP), sedatives, opioids, and NMBAs are used in a higher proportion of patients and in higher doses and that the use of these medications is associated with prolongation of weaning and mortality.

Design: Retrospective analysis.

Setting: The ALVEOLI trial.

Patients: Five hundred forty-nine patients with acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS) who were enrolled in the ALVEOLI trial.

Interventions: We analyzed prospectively collected data regarding the impact of sedatives, opioids, and NMBAs in ALI/ARDS patients on duration of mechanical ventilation, time to weaning landmarks, and mortality.

Measurements and main results: Sedatives and opioids were used in >80% of the patients in similar proportion in the two groups. The use of sedatives and opioids, but not the use of NMBAs, was associated with longer time on mechanical ventilation and an increased time to achieve a 2-hr spontaneous breathing trial (p < .0001). Sedatives were also associated with increased time to achieve unassisted breathing. NMBAs were used for a short period of time, in a higher proportion of patients in the lower PEEP group, and for a longer time (0.23 days).

Conclusions: Sedatives and opioids use was similar in the higher and lower PEEP groups. The use of sedatives and opioids, but not NMBAs, was associated with a longer time to achieve important weaning landmarks.

Trial registration: NCT00000579.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents

Associated data