Introduction: Two small randomized controlled trials have suggested beneficial effects of antibiotic treatment in patients with ventilator-associated tracheobronchitis (VAT). The primary aim of this study is to determine the impact of appropriate antibiotic treatment on transition from VAT to ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in critically ill patients. The secondary objective was to determine the incidence of VAP in patients with VAT.
Methods: This was a prospective observational multicenter study. All patients with a first episode of VAT were eligible. Patients with tracheostomy at intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and those with VAP prior to VAT were excluded. VAT was defined using all the following criteria: fever > 38 °C with no other cause, purulent tracheal secretions, positive tracheal aspirate (≥ 10(5) cfu/mL), and absence of new infiltrate on chest X ray. Only VAP episodes diagnosed during the 96 h following VAT, and caused by the same bacteria, were taken into account. Antibiotic treatment was at the discretion of attending physicians. Risk factors for transition from VAT to VAP were determined using univariate and multivariate analysis. All variables from univariate analysis with P values <0.1 were incorporated in the multivariate logistic regression analysis.
Results: One thousand seven hundred and ten patients were screened for this study. Eighty-six, and 123 patients were excluded for tracheostomy at ICU admission, and VAP prior to VAT; respectively. One hundred and twenty two (7.1%) patients were included. 17 (13.9%) patients developed a subsequent VAP. The most common microorganisms in VAT patients were Pseudomonas aeruginosa (30%), Staphylococcus aureus (18%), and Acinetobacter baumannii (10%). Seventy-four (60%) patients received antimicrobial treatment, including 58 (47.5%) patients who received appropriate antimicrobial treatment. Appropriate antibiotic treatment was the only factor independently associated with reduced risk for transition from VAT to VAP (OR [95% CI] 0.12[0.02-0.59], P = 0.009). The number of patients with VAT needed to treat to prevent one episode of VAP, or one episode of VAP related to P. aeruginosa was 5, and 34; respectively.
Conclusions: Appropriate antibiotic treatment is independently associated with reduced risk for transition from VAT to VAP.