Background: Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a potentially fatal disease with high mortality. Our aim was to summarize the current evidence for use of neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) in the early phase of ARDS.
Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of publications between 1966 and 2012. The Medline and CENTRAL databases were searched for studies on NMBA in patients with ARDS. The meta-analysis was limited to: 1) randomized controlled trials; 02) adult human patients with ARDS or acute lung injury; and 03) use of any NMBA in one arm of the study compared with another arm without NMBA. The outcomes assessed were: overall mortality, ventilator-free days, time of mechanical ventilation, adverse events, changes in gas exchange, in ventilator settings, and in respiratory mechanics.
Results: Three randomized controlled trials covering 431 participants were included. Patients treated with NMBA showed less mortality (Risk ratio, 0.71 [95 % CI, 0.55 - 0.90]; number needed to treat, 1 - 7), more ventilator free days at day 28 (p = 0.020), higher PaO2 to FiO2 ratios (p = 0.004), and less barotraumas (p = 0.030). The incidence of critical illness neuromyopathy was similar (p = 0.540).
Conclusions: The use of NMBA in the early phase of ARDS improves outcome.