Systematic review of cognitive impairment and brain insult after mechanical ventilation

Crit Care. 2021 Mar 10;25(1):99. doi: 10.1186/s13054-021-03521-9.


We conducted a systematic review following the PRISMA protocol primarily to identify publications that assessed any links between mechanical ventilation (MV) and either cognitive impairment or brain insult, independent of underlying medical conditions. Secondary objectives were to identify possible gaps in the literature that can be used to inform future studies and move toward a better understanding of this complex problem. The preclinical literature suggests that MV is associated with neuroinflammation, cognitive impairment, and brain insult, reporting higher neuroinflammatory markers, greater evidence of brain injury markers, and lower cognitive scores in subjects that were ventilated longer, compared to those ventilated less, and to never-ventilated subjects. The clinical literature suggests an association between MV and delirium, and that delirium in mechanically ventilated patients may be associated with greater likelihood of long-term cognitive impairment; our systematic review found no clinical study that demonstrated a causal link between MV, cognitive dysfunction, and brain insult. More studies should be designed to investigate ventilation-induced brain injury pathways as well as any causative linkage between MV, cognitive impairment, and brain insult.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Brain injuries; Cognitive impairment; Delirium; Mechanical; Ventilators.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods