Participant Retention in Follow-Up Studies of Acute Respiratory Failure Survivors

Respir Care. 2020 Sep;65(9):1382-1391. doi: 10.4187/respcare.07461. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Background: With an increasing number of follow-up studies of acute respiratory failure survivors, there is need for a better understanding of participant retention and its reporting in this field of research. Hence, our objective was to synthesize participant retention data and associated reporting for this field.

Methods: Two screeners independently searched for acute respiratory failure survivorship studies within a published scoping review to evaluate subject outcomes after hospital discharge in critical illness survivors.

Results: There were 21 acute respiratory failure studies (n = 4,342 survivors) over 47 follow-up time points. Six-month follow-up (range: 2-60 months) was the most frequently reported time point, in 81% of studies. Only 1 study (5%) reported accounting for loss to follow-up in sample-size calculation. Retention rates could not be calculated for 5 (24%) studies. In 16 studies reporting on retention across all time points, retention ranged from 32% to 100%. Pooled retention rates at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months were 85%, 89%, 82%, and 88%, respectively. Retention rates did not significantly differ by publication year, participant mean age, or when comparing earlier (3 months) versus each later follow-up time point (6, 12, or 24 months).

Conclusions: Participant retention was generally high but varied greatly across individual studies and time points, with 24% of studies reporting inadequate data to calculate retention rate. High participant retention is possible, but resources for optimizing retention may help studies retain participants. Improved reporting guidelines with greater adherence would be beneficial.

Keywords: acute respiratory failure; cohort; follow-up studies; meta-analysis; participant retention; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome* / therapy
  • Respiratory Insufficiency* / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency* / therapy
  • Survivors