Rationale: The use of noninvasive ventilation (NIV) as an early weaning/extubation technique from mechanical ventilation remains controversial.
Objectives: To investigate NIV effectiveness as an early weaning/extubation technique in difficult-to-wean patients with chronic hypercapnic respiratory failure (CHRF).
Methods: In 13 intensive care units, 208 patients with CHRF intubated for acute respiratory failure (ARF) who failed a first spontaneous breathing trial were randomly assigned to three groups: conventional invasive weaning group (n = 69), extubation followed by standard oxygen therapy (n = 70), or NIV (n = 69). NIV was permitted as rescue therapy for both non-NIV groups if postextubation ARF occurred. Primary endpoint was reintubation within 7 days after extubation. Secondary endpoints were: occurrence of postextubation ARF or death within 7 days after extubation, use of rescue postextubation NIV, weaning time, and patient outcomes.
Measurements and main results: Reintubation rates were 30, 37, and 32% for invasive weaning, oxygen-therapy, and NIV groups, respectively (P = 0.654). Weaning failure rates, including postextubation ARF, were 54, 71, and 33%, respectively (P < 0.001). Rescue NIV success rates for invasive and oxygen-therapy groups were 45 and 58%, respectively (P = 0.386). By design, intubation duration was 1.5 days longer for the invasive group than in the two others. Apart from a longer weaning time in NIV than in invasive group (2.5 vs. 1.5 d; P = 0.033), no significant outcome difference was observed between groups.
Conclusions: No difference was found in the reintubation rate between the three weaning strategies. NIV decreases the intubation duration and may improve the weaning results in difficult-to-wean patients with CHRF by reducing the risk of postextubation ARF. The benefit of rescue NIV in these patients deserves confirmation.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00213499.