Protective ventilation and outcomes of critically ill patients with COVID-19: a cohort study

Ann Intensive Care. 2021 Jun 7;11(1):92. doi: 10.1186/s13613-021-00882-w.


Background: Approximately 5% of COVID-19 patients develop respiratory failure and need ventilatory support, yet little is known about the impact of mechanical ventilation strategy in COVID-19. Our objective was to describe baseline characteristics, ventilatory parameters, and outcomes of critically ill patients in the largest referral center for COVID-19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, during the first surge of the pandemic.

Methods: This cohort included COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care units (ICUs) of an academic hospital with 94 ICU beds, a number expanded to 300 during the pandemic as part of a state preparedness plan. Data included demographics, advanced life support therapies, and ventilator parameters. The main outcome was 28-day survival. We used a multivariate Cox model to test the association between protective ventilation and survival, adjusting for PF ratio, pH, compliance, and PEEP.

Results: We included 1503 patients from March 30 to June 30, 2020. The mean age was 60 ± 15 years, and 59% were male. During 28-day follow-up, 1180 (79%) patients needed invasive ventilation and 666 (44%) died. For the 984 patients who were receiving mechanical ventilation in the first 24 h of ICU stay, mean tidal volume was 6.5 ± 1.3 mL/kg of ideal body weight, plateau pressure was 24 ± 5 cmH2O, respiratory system compliance was 31.9 (24.4-40.9) mL/cmH2O, and 82% of patients were ventilated with protective ventilation. Noninvasive ventilation was used in 21% of patients, and prone, in 36%. Compliance was associated with survival and did not show a bimodal pattern that would support the presence of two phenotypes. In the multivariable model, protective ventilation (aHR 0.73 [95%CI 0.57-0.94]), adjusted for PF ratio, compliance, PEEP, and arterial pH, was independently associated with survival.

Conclusions: During the peak of the epidemic in Sao Paulo, critically ill patients with COVID-19 often required mechanical ventilation and mortality was high. Our findings revealed an association between mechanical ventilation strategy and mortality, highlighting the importance of protective ventilation for patients with COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pneumonia, viral; SARS virus; Severe acute respiratory syndrome; Ventilation, artificial.