Semi-Recumbent Position to Prevent Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia: Is It Possible?
By Joseph Ming Wah Li, MD
Van Nieuwenhoven CA, Vandenbroucke-Grauls C, van Tiel FH, et al. Feasibility and effects of the semirecumbent position to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia: a randomized study. Crit Care Med. 2006 Feb;34(2):396-402.
Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a cause of significant morbidity and mortality among mechanically ventilated patients. Studies with radioactive-labeled enteral feeds have demonstrated an increased frequency of endotracheal aspiration of gastric contents in supine patients. The CDC guidelines for prevention of nosocomial pneumonia advise placement of mechanically ventilated patients in a semi-recumbent position as a VAP prevention measure.
Only one previous study, by Drakulovic and colleagues, has assessed this strategy to prevent VAP.1 That study demonstrated a 75% decrease in the incidence of VAP. But van Nieuwenhoven and colleagues raised two important questions about the findings from the previous study: First, the Drakulovic study placed control patients in a horizontal (zero degrees) position, which is not the standard of care in most ICUs. Most patients are placed at 10 degrees, and this position is elevated as patients are weaned. Second, the Drakulovic study measured patients only once daily but did not monitor their body positions in between the daily measurements.
Dr. van Nieuwenhoven and colleagues set out to determine whether it is feasible to keep mechanically ventilated patients in a semi-recumbent position on a continual basis and whether this measure would prevent VAP. This was a prospective multi-centered trial in which mechanically ventilated patients were randomly assigned to the semi-recumbent position with a target backrest elevation of 45 degrees or standard of care (supine position) with a backrest elevation of 10 degrees. They used a transducer with a pendulum, which was placed on the bed frame to measure the backrest elevation every 60 seconds for up to seven days. They calculated a mean degree of elevation for each patient daily. Nurses always respected the patient’s request for positioning, but a dedicated research nurse restored backrest position to the randomized position whenever possible.
Baseline characteristics for both groups were similar. For the supine (control) group, average elevations were 9.8 degrees on day one and 16.1 degrees on day seven. For the semi-recumbent group, average elevations were 28.1 degrees on day one and 22.6 degrees on day seven. There were no significant differences in numbers of patients who developed VAP in either group.
This study suggests that, despite the use of dedicated research nurses to maintain positioning, it may not be possible to keep patients’ backrests elevated to 45 degrees. Keeping patients’ backrests at an elevation of nearly 30 degrees does not appear to prevent VAP more than keeping patients’ backrests at 10 degrees, the present standard of care.
- Drakulovic MB, Torres A, Bauer TT, et al. Supine body position as a risk factor for nosocomial pneumonia in mechanically ventilated patients: a randomised trial. Lancet. 1999;354(9193):1851-1858.
Bar Codes in Medicine: An Opportunity for Quality Improvement
By Alex Carbo, MD
Poon EG, Cina JL, Churchill W, et al. Medication dispensing errors and potential adverse drug events before and after implementing bar code technology in the pharmacy. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:426-434.
Medication errors and adverse drug events (ADEs) have received much attention in the literature; the use of health information technology to mitigate these errors and ADEs has now been proposed in many areas of healthcare. In an effort to decrease medication-dispensing errors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated bar code use for all medications in hospitals, beginning in April 2006. While this technology has been extensively studied in other industries, there is little data describing its effects in the healthcare system.