Importance: Noninvasive ventilation (NIV) with a face mask is relatively ineffective at preventing endotracheal intubation in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Delivery of NIV with a helmet may be a superior strategy for these patients.
Objective: To determine whether NIV delivered by helmet improves intubation rate among patients with ARDS.
Design, setting, and participants: Single-center randomized clinical trial of 83 patients with ARDS requiring NIV delivered by face mask for at least 8 hours while in the medical intensive care unit at the University of Chicago between October 3, 2012, through September 21, 2015.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to continue face mask NIV or switch to a helmet for NIV support for a planned enrollment of 206 patients (103 patients per group). The helmet is a transparent hood that covers the entire head of the patient and has a rubber collar neck seal. Early trial termination resulted in 44 patients randomized to the helmet group and 39 to the face mask group.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was the proportion of patients who required endotracheal intubation. Secondary outcomes included 28-day invasive ventilator-free days (ie, days alive without mechanical ventilation), duration of ICU and hospital length of stay, and hospital and 90-day mortality.
Results: Eighty-three patients (45% women; median age, 59 years; median Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation [APACHE] II score, 26) were included in the analysis after the trial was stopped early based on predefined criteria for efficacy. The intubation rate was 61.5% (n = 24) for the face mask group and 18.2% (n = 8) for the helmet group (absolute difference, -43.3%; 95% CI, -62.4% to -24.3%; P < .001). The number of ventilator-free days was significantly higher in the helmet group (28 vs 12.5, P < .001). At 90 days, 15 patients (34.1%) in the helmet group died compared with 22 patients (56.4%) in the face mask group (absolute difference, -22.3%; 95% CI, -43.3 to -1.4; P = .02). Adverse events included 3 interface-related skin ulcers for each group (ie, 7.6% in the face mask group had nose ulcers and 6.8% in the helmet group had neck ulcers).
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with ARDS, treatment with helmet NIV resulted in a significant reduction of intubation rates. There was also a statistically significant reduction in 90-day mortality with helmet NIV. Multicenter studies are needed to replicate these findings.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01680783.