Effectiveness and Clinical Outcomes of a Two-Step Implementation of Conservative Oxygenation Targets in Critically Ill Patients: A Before and After Trial

Crit Care Med. 2016 Mar;44(3):554-63. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000001461.


Objectives: Conservative oxygen therapy is aimed at the prevention of harm by iatrogenic hyperoxia while preserving adequate tissue oxygenation. Our aim was to study the effectiveness and clinical outcomes of a two-step implementation of conservative oxygenation targets in the ICU.

Design: This was a before and after stepwise implementation study of conservative oxygenation targets, between July 2011 and July 2014. The primary endpoint was the proportion of PaO2 values within the target range. Secondary outcomes included ventilator-free days at day 28, length of stay, and mortality.

Setting: Three closed-format ICUs in the Netherlands.

Patients: We analyzed data on 15,045 eligible admissions.

Interventions: The first implementation phase consisted of providing training and feedback on new guidelines instructing for explicit targets for arterial oxygen tension (PaO2, 55-86 mm Hg) and oxyhemoglobin saturation (SpO2, 92-95%). In the second phase, bedside clinicians were additionally assisted in guideline adherence by a computerized decision-support system.

Measurements and main results: The proportion of PaO2 in the target range increased from 47% at baseline to 63% in phase 1 and to 68% in phase 2 (p < 0.0001). Episodes of hyperoxia decreased (p < 0.0001), whereas hypoxic episodes remained unchanged (p = 0.06) during the study. Mechanical ventilation time was significantly lower (p < 0.01) during both study phases. After adjustment for potential confounders, ventilator-free days in phase 1 and phase 2 were higher than baseline: adjusted mean difference, 0.55 (95% CI, 0.25-0.84) and 0.48 (95% CI, 0.11-0.86), respectively. Adjusted ICU mortality and ICU-free days did not significantly differ between study phases. Hospital mortality decreased in reference to baseline: adjusted odds ratio, 0.84 (95% CI, 0.74-0.96) for phase 1 and 0.82 (95% CI, 0.69-0.96) for phase 2.

Conclusions: Stepwise implementation of conservative oxygenation targets was feasible, effective, and seemed safe in critically ill patients. The implementation was associated with several changes in clinical outcomes, but the causal impact of conservative oxygenation is still to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Gas Analysis / methods
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / etiology
  • Hyperoxia / prevention & control
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Intensive Care Units / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen / adverse effects
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Oxygen

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR3424