Expert consensus statements for the management of COVID-19-related acute respiratory failure using a Delphi method

Crit Care. 2021 Mar 16;25(1):106. doi: 10.1186/s13054-021-03491-y.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused unprecedented pressure on healthcare system globally. Lack of high-quality evidence on the respiratory management of COVID-19-related acute respiratory failure (C-ARF) has resulted in wide variation in clinical practice.

Methods: Using a Delphi process, an international panel of 39 experts developed clinical practice statements on the respiratory management of C-ARF in areas where evidence is absent or limited. Agreement was defined as achieved when > 70% experts voted for a given option on the Likert scale statement or > 80% voted for a particular option in multiple-choice questions. Stability was assessed between the two concluding rounds for each statement, using the non-parametric Chi-square (χ2) test (p < 0·05 was considered as unstable).

Results: Agreement was achieved for 27 (73%) management strategies which were then used to develop expert clinical practice statements. Experts agreed that COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is clinically similar to other forms of ARDS. The Delphi process yielded strong suggestions for use of systemic corticosteroids for critical COVID-19; awake self-proning to improve oxygenation and high flow nasal oxygen to potentially reduce tracheal intubation; non-invasive ventilation for patients with mixed hypoxemic-hypercapnic respiratory failure; tracheal intubation for poor mentation, hemodynamic instability or severe hypoxemia; closed suction systems; lung protective ventilation; prone ventilation (for 16-24 h per day) to improve oxygenation; neuromuscular blocking agents for patient-ventilator dyssynchrony; avoiding delay in extubation for the risk of reintubation; and similar timing of tracheostomy as in non-COVID-19 patients. There was no agreement on positive end expiratory pressure titration or the choice of personal protective equipment.

Conclusion: Using a Delphi method, an agreement among experts was reached for 27 statements from which 20 expert clinical practice statements were derived on the respiratory management of C-ARF, addressing important decisions for patient management in areas where evidence is either absent or limited.

Trial registration: The study was registered with Clinical Identifier: NCT04534569.

Keywords: COVID 19 invasive mechanical ventilation; COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome; COVID-19 high flow nasal oxygen; COVID-19 respiratory management; COVID-19 ventilatory management; Respiratory distress syndrome adult.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • Consensus*
  • Delphi Technique*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / virology*

Associated data