Improving weaning from mechanical ventilation

A summary of research published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine

A new study has looked at how we can successfully withdraw mechanical ventilation to give the best chance of recovery.

If a person’s breathing system stops working, they need medical support to help them breathe. A tube is inserted into the airways to push air around the body. This is invasive mechanical ventilation.

Studies show that complications increase the longer a person receives mechanical ventilation. This includes an increased risk of:

  • death,
  • poor ongoing lung function, and
  • a longer stay in intensive care and hospital.

It is important that people are quickly ‘weaned’ from mechanical ventilation. This means that the breathing system begins to work for itself as the therapy is withdrawn.

What did the study look at?

This new study collected a large amount of data from 5,689 people who had received mechanical ventilation in 50 different countries. Researchers looked at how mechanical ventilation was withdrawn and what happened afterwards.

What do the results show?

Only 3,817 out of 5,689 participants (65%) were successfully weaned from invasive mechanical ventilation after 90 days.

Two main factors were linked to failed attempts to wean:

  • a delay in starting the weaning process;
  • high levels of sedation medicine. This is sometimes given to make a patient feel sleepy and relaxed during ventilation.

Why is this important?

The study shows the impact mechanical ventilation can have on people in intensive care units. It also shows changes that can improve weaning from mechanical ventilation.

This is the first global study to look at the weaning process in detail. It also shows the impact of delayed or failed attempts to remove ventilation.

The findings can help shape strategies for weaning from invasive mechanical ventilation. The authors believe that future studies should look at reducing delays and finding the best level of sedation medicine.

These findings, along with future research, should give people who receive mechanical ventilation the best chance of recovery.

Read the original research paper:

Weaning from mechanical ventilation in intensive care units across 50 countries (WEAN SAFE): a multicentre, prospective, observational cohort study

Find out more about mechanical ventilation from our patient experiences