Prone Positioning Reduces Need for Mechanical Ventilation

Source: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

A ‘meta-trial’ of 1100 hospitalised COVID patients requiring high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy suggests that prone positioning soon after admission can significantly reduce the need for mechanical ventilation.

While acute respiratory distress syndrome patients have been placed prone for years by critical care specialists, this study provides clinical evidence needed to support the use of prone positioning for patients with COVID requiring high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy.

The findings, published today in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, were conducted on severely ill COVID patients between April 2020 and January 2021.

“Breathing in the prone position helps the lungs work more efficiently,” explained the study’s lead author Dr. Jie Li, associate professor and respiratory therapist at Rush University Medical Center. “When people with severe oxygenation issues are laying on their stomachs, it results in better matching of the blood flow and ventilation in the lungs which improves blood oxygen levels.”

Prof Li noted that several interventions are available to improve oxygenation in critically ill patients, but that there was little outcomes-focused clinical evidence to show that prone positioning prior to mechanical ventilation is beneficial.

Adult patients with COVID needing respiratory support from a high-flow nasal cannula agreed to participate in this clinical trial, and were randomly assigned to the supine or prone positioning groups. They were asked to stay in that position for as long as they could tolerate. Both positioning groups received high-flow oxygen therapy and standard medical management.

Patients were continually monitored to determine if mechanical ventilation was needed. This study’s data showed that patients in the prone positioning group were significantly less likely to require mechanical ventilation (33% in the awake prone positioning group vs 40% in the supine group).

Another study lead author, Stephan Ehrmann, MD, PhD, said that “for the clinical implications of our study, awake prone positioning is a safe intervention that reduces the risk of treatment failure in acute severe hypoxemic respiratory failure due to COVID-19. Our findings support the routine implementation of awake prone positioning in critically ill patients with COVID19 requiring high flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy. It appears important that clinicians improve patient comfort during prone positioning, so the patient can stay in the position for at least 8 hours a day.”

Reducing the need for mechanical ventilation cuts down on resources needed. “Ventilators can indeed save the lives of people who are no longer able to breathe on their own. That said, we now have strategies to keep patients off the ventilator, saving those devices for the sickest patients who truly need them.” Prof Li added.

Source: Medical Xpress

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