Background: Accumulated airway secretions in the endotracheal tube increase work of breathing and may favor airway colonization eventually leading to pneumonia. The aim of this preplanned substudy of the 'Preventive Nebulization of Mucolytic Agents and Bronchodilating Drugs in Intubated and Ventilated Intensive Care Unit Patients trial' (NEBULAE) was to compare the effect of routine vs on-demand nebulization of acetylcysteine with salbutamol on accumulation of secretions in endotracheal tubes in critically ill patients.
Results: In this single-center substudy of a national multicenter trial, patients were randomized to a strategy of routine nebulizations of acetylcysteine with salbutamol every 6 h until end of invasive ventilation, or to a strategy with on-demand nebulizations of acetylcysteine or salbutamol applied on strict clinical indications only. The primary endpoint, the maximum reduction in cross-sectional area (CSA) of the endotracheal tube was assessed with high-resolution computed tomography. Endotracheal tubes were collected from 72 patients, 36 from patients randomized to the routine nebulization strategy and 36 of patients randomized to the on-demand nebulization strategy. The maximum cross-sectional area (CSA) of the endotracheal tube was median 12 [6 to 15]% in tubes obtained from patients in the routine nebulization group, not different from median 9 [6 to 14]% in tubes obtained from patients in the on-demand nebulization group (P = 0.33).
Conclusion: In adult critically ill patients under invasive ventilation, routine nebulization of mucolytics and bronchodilators did not affect accumulation of airway secretions in the endotracheal tube. Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02159196.
Keywords: Acetylcysteine; Airway secretions; Endotracheal tube; Intensive care unit; Invasive ventilation; Nebulization; Salbutamol.