Effects of sedatives and opioids on trigger and cycling asynchronies throughout mechanical ventilation: an observational study in a large dataset from critically ill patients

Crit Care. 2019 Jul 5;23(1):245. doi: 10.1186/s13054-019-2531-5.


Background: In critically ill patients, poor patient-ventilator interaction may worsen outcomes. Although sedatives are often administered to improve comfort and facilitate ventilation, they can be deleterious. Whether opioids improve asynchronies with fewer negative effects is unknown. We hypothesized that opioids alone would improve asynchronies and result in more wakeful patients than sedatives alone or sedatives-plus-opioids.

Methods: This prospective multicenter observational trial enrolled critically ill adults mechanically ventilated (MV) > 24 h. We compared asynchronies and sedation depth in patients receiving sedatives, opioids, or both. We recorded sedation level and doses of sedatives and opioids. BetterCare™ software continuously registered ineffective inspiratory efforts during expiration (IEE), double cycling (DC), and asynchrony index (AI) as well as MV modes. All variables were averaged per day. We used linear mixed-effects models to analyze the relationships between asynchronies, sedation level, and sedative and opioid doses.

Results: In 79 patients, 14,166,469 breaths were recorded during 579 days of MV. Overall asynchronies were not significantly different in days classified as sedatives-only, opioids-only, and sedatives-plus-opioids and were more prevalent in days classified as no-drugs than in those classified as sedatives-plus-opioids, irrespective of the ventilatory mode. Sedative doses were associated with sedation level and with reduced DC (p < 0.0001) in sedatives-only days. However, on days classified as sedatives-plus-opioids, higher sedative doses and deeper sedation had more IEE (p < 0.0001) and higher AI (p = 0.0004). Opioid dosing was inversely associated with overall asynchronies (p < 0.001) without worsening sedation levels into morbid ranges.

Conclusions: Sedatives, whether alone or combined with opioids, do not result in better patient-ventilator interaction than opioids alone, in any ventilatory mode. Higher opioid dose (alone or with sedatives) was associated with lower AI without depressing consciousness. Higher sedative doses administered alone were associated only with less DC.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrial.gov, NCT03451461.

Keywords: Asynchronies; Double cycling; Ineffective inspiratory efforts during expiration; Mechanical ventilation; Opioids; Sedatives.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / drug effects*
  • Spain


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03451461