Journal of Critical Care

Effects of aggressive and conservative strategies for mechanical ventilation liberation

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Background: The optimal approach for transitioning from strict lung protective ventilation to support modes of ventilation when patients determine their own respiratory rate and tidal volume remains unclear. While aggressive liberation from lung protective settings could expedite extubation and prevent harm from prolonged ventilation and sedation, conservative liberation could prevent lung injury from spontaneous breathing. Research question: Should physicians take a more aggressive or conservative approach to liberation? Methods: Retrospective cohort study of mechanically ventilated patients from the Medical Information Mart for Intensive Care IV database (MIMIC-IV version 1.0) estimating effects of incremental interventions modifying the propensity for liberation to be more aggressive or conservative relative to usual care, with adjustment for confounding via inverse probability weighting. Outcomes included in-hospital mortality, ventilator free days, and ICU free days. Analysis was performed on the entire cohort as well as subgroups differentiated by PaO2/FiO2 ratio, and SOFA. Results: 7433 patients were included. Strategies multiplying the odds of a first liberation relative to usual care at each hour had a large impact on time to first liberation attempt (43 h under usual care, 24 h (0.95 CI = [23,25]) with an aggressive strategy doubling liberation odds, and 74 h (0.95 CI = [69,78]) under a conservative strategy halving liberation odds). In the full cohort, we estimated aggressive liberation increased ICU-free days by 0.9 days (0.95 CI = [0.8,1.0]) and ventilator free days by 0.82 days (0.95 CI = [0.67,0.97]), but had minimal effect on mortality (only a 0.3% (0.95 CI = [−0.2%,0.8%]) difference between minimum and maximum rates). With baseline SOFA≥ 12 (n = 1355), aggressive liberation moderately increased mortality (58.5% [0.95 CI = (55.7%,61.2%)]) compared with conservative liberation (55.1% [0.95 CI = (51.6%,58.6%)]). Interpretation: Aggressive liberation may improve ventilator free and ICU free days with little impact on mortality in patients with SOFA score < 12. Trials are needed.