Daily sedation interruption in mechanically ventilated critically ill patients cared for with a sedation protocol: a randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 2012 Nov 21;308(19):1985-92. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.13872.


Context: Protocolized sedation and daily sedation interruption are 2 strategies to minimize sedation and reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit (ICU) stay. We hypothesized that combining these strategies would augment the benefits.

Objective: To compare protocolized sedation with protocolized sedation plus daily sedation interruption in critically ill patients.

Design, setting, and patients: Randomized controlled trial of 430 critically ill, mechanically ventilated adults conducted in 16 tertiary care medical and surgical ICUs in Canada and the United States between January 2008 and July 2011.

Intervention: Continuous opioid and/or benzodiazepine infusions and random allocation to protocolized sedation (n = 209) (control) or to protocolized sedation plus daily sedation interruption (n = 214). Using validated scales, nurses titrated infusions to achieve light sedation. For patients receiving daily interruption, nurses resumed infusions, if indicated, at half of previous doses. Patients were assessed for delirium and for readiness for unassisted breathing.

Main outcome measure: Time to successful extubation. Secondary outcomes included duration of stay, doses of sedatives and opioids, unintentional device removal, delirium, and nurse and respiratory therapist clinical workload (on a 10-point visual analog scale [VAS]).

Results: Median time to successful extubation was 7 days in both the interruption and control groups (median [IQR], 7 [4-13] vs 7 [3-12]; interruption group hazard ratio, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.86-1.35; P = .52). Duration of ICU stay (median [IQR], 10 [5-17] days vs 10 [6-20] days; P = .36) and hospital stay (median [IQR], 20 [10-36] days vs 20 [10-48] days; P = .42) did not differ between the daily interruption and control groups, respectively. Daily interruption was associated with higher mean daily doses of midazolam (102 mg/d vs 82 mg/d; P = .04) and fentanyl (median [IQR], 550 [50-1850] vs 260 [0-1400]; P < .001) and more daily boluses of benzodiazepines (mean, 0.253 vs 0.177; P = .007) and opiates (mean, 2.18 vs 1.79; P < .001). Unintentional endotracheal tube removal occurred in 10 of 214 (4.7%) vs 12 of 207 patients (5.8%) in the interruption and control groups, respectively (relative risk, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.36-1.84; P = .64). Rates of delirium were not significantly different between groups (53.3% vs 54.1%; relative risk, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.82-1.17; P = .83). Nurse workload was greater in the interruption group (VAS score, 4.22 vs 3.80; mean difference, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.17-0.66; P = .001).

Conclusion: For mechanically ventilated adults managed with protocolized sedation, the addition of daily sedation interruption did not reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation or ICU stay.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00675363.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Airway Extubation
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Conscious Sedation / methods*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Benzodiazepines

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00675363