Background: Patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury require mechanical ventilatory support. Acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury are further complicated by ventilator-induced lung injury. Lung protective ventilation strategies may lead to improved survival. This systematic review is an update of a Cochrane review originally published in 2003 and updated in 2007.
Objectives: To assess the effects of ventilation with lower tidal volume on morbidity and mortality in patients aged 16 years or older affected by acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury. A secondary objective was to determine whether the comparison between low and conventional tidal volume was different if a plateau airway pressure of greater than 30 to 35 cm H20 was used.
Search methods: In our previous 2007 updated review, we searched databases from inception until 2006. In this third updated review, we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Web of Science from 2006 to September 2012. We also updated our search of databases of ongoing research and of reference lists from 2006 to September 2012.
Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials comparing ventilation using either a lower tidal volume (Vt) or low airway driving pressure (plateau pressure 30 cm H2O or less), resulting in a tidal volume of 7 ml/kg or less, versus ventilation that used Vt in the range of 10 to 15 ml/kg in adults (16 years old or older) with acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury.
Data collection and analysis: We independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. Wherever appropriate, results were pooled. We applied fixed-effect and random-effects models.
Main results: We did not find any new study which were eligible for inclusion in this update. The total number of studies remained unchanged, six trials involving 1297 patients. Five trials had a low risk of bias. One trial had an unclear risk of bias. Mortality at day 28 was significantly reduced by lung-protective ventilation with a relative risk (RR) of 0.74 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61 to 0.88); hospital mortality was reduced with a RR of 0.80 (95% CI 0.69 to 0.92). Overall mortality was not significantly different if a plateau pressure less than or equal to 31 cm H2O in the control group was used (RR 1.13, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.45). There was insufficient evidence for morbidity and long-term outcomes.
Authors' conclusions: Clinical heterogeneity, such as different lengths of follow up and higher plateau pressure in control arms in two trials, makes the interpretation of the combined results difficult. Mortality was significantly reduced at day 28 and at the end of the hospital stay. The effects on long-term mortality are unknown, although the possibility of a clinically relevant benefit cannot be excluded. Ventilation with lower tidal volumes is becoming a routine strategy of treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome and acute lung injury, stopping investigators from carrying out additional trials.