Development of a Lung Rescue Team to Improve Care of Subjects With Refractory Acute Respiratory Failure

Respir Care. 2020 Apr;65(4):420-426. doi: 10.4187/respcare.07350. Epub 2020 Feb 4.


Background: A lung-protective mechanical ventilation strategy has become the hallmark of ventilation management for patients with acute respiratory failure. However, some patients progress to more severe forms of acute respiratory failure with refractory hypoxemia. In such circumstances, individualized titration of mechanical ventilation according to the patient's specific respiratory and cardiovascular pathophysiology is desirable. A lung rescue team (LRT) was recently established at our institution to improve the medical care of patients with acute respiratory failure when conventional treatment fails. The aim of this report is to describe the consultation processes, the cardiopulmonary assessment, and the procedures of the LRT.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of the LRT management of patients with acute respiratory failure and refractory hypoxemia at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The LRT is composed of a critical care physician, the ICU respiratory therapist on duty, the ICU nurse on duty, and 2 critical care fellows. In the LRT approach, respiratory mechanics are evaluated through lung recruitment maneuvers and decremental PEEP trials by means of 3 tools: esophageal manometry, echocardiography, and electrical impedance tomography lung imaging.

Results: The LRT was consulted 89 times from 2014 to 2019 for evaluation and management of severely critically ill patients with acute respiratory failure and refractory hypoxemia on mechanical ventilation. The LRT was requested a median of 2 (interquartile range 1-6) d after intubation to optimize mechanical ventilation and to titrate PEEP in 77 (86%) subjects, to manage ventilation in 8 (9%) subjects on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), and to manage weaning strategy from mechanical ventilation in 4 (5%) subjects. The LRT found consolidations with atelectasis responsive to recruitment maneuvers in 79% (n = 70) of consultations. The LRT findings translated into a change of care in 81% (n = 72) of subjects.

Conclusions: The LRT individualized the management of severe acute respiratory failure. The LRT consultations were shown to be effective, safe, and efficient, with an impact on decision-making in the ICU.

Keywords: ARDS; mechanical ventilation; obesity; respiratory insufficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Boston
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Lung
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Retrospective Studies