A Quality Improvement Evaluation of a Primary As-Needed Light Sedation Protocol in Mechanically Ventilated Adults

Crit Care Explor. 2020 Dec 16;2(12):e0264. doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000264. eCollection 2020 Dec.


Objectives: First, to implement successfully a light-sedation protocol, favoring initial as-needed (prioritizing as-needed) boluses over continuous infusion sedation, and second, to evaluate if this protocol was associated with differences in patient-level sedative requirements, clinical outcomes, and unit-level longitudinal changes in pharmacy charges for sedative medications.

Design: Retrospective review comparing patients who received the prioritizing as-needed sedation protocol to similar patients eligible for the prioritizing as-needed protocol but treated initially with continuous infusion sedation.

Setting: Thirty-two bed medical ICUs in a large academic medical center.

Patients: A total of 254 mechanical ventilated patients with a target Riker Sedation-Agitation Scale goal of 3 or 4 were evaluated over a 2-year period. Of the evaluable patients, 114 received the prioritizing as-needed sedation protocol and 140 received a primary continuous infusion approach.

Interventions: A multidisciplinary leadership team created and implemented a light-sedation protocol, focusing on avoiding initiation of continuous sedative infusions and prioritizing prioritizing as-needed sedation.

Measurements and main results: Overall, 42% of patients in the prioritizing as-needed group never received continuous infusion sedation. Compared with the continuous infusion sedation group, patients treated with the prioritizing as-needed protocol received significantly less opioid, propofol, and benzodiazepine. Patients in the prioritizing as-needed group experienced less delirium, shorter duration of mechanical ventilation, and shorter ICU length of stay. Adverse events were similar between the two groups. At the unit level, protocol implementation was associated with reductions in the use of continuous infusion sedative medications.

Conclusions: Implementation and use of a prioritizing as-needed protocol targeting light sedation appear to be safe and effective. These single-ICU retrospective findings require wider, prospective validation.

Keywords: critical care; delirium; implementation; intensive care unit; mechanical ventilation; sedation.