Prone positioning: is it safe and effective?

Susan Dirkes, Sharon Dickinson, Renee Havey, Denise O'brien
Critical Care Nursing Quarterly 2012, 35 (1): 64-75
Prone positioning has been used as a treatment option for patients with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) since the early 1970s. Prone position and extended prone position ventilation have been shown to increase end-expiratory lung volume, alveolar recruitment, and oxygenation in patients with severe hypoxemic and acute respiratory failure. Prone positioning is not a benign procedure, and there are potential risks (complications) that can occur to both the patient and the health care worker. Notable complications that can arise include: unplanned extubation, lines pulled, tubes kinked, and back and other injuries to personnel. Prone positioning is a viable, inexpensive therapy for the treatment of severe ARDS. This maneuver consistently improves systemic oxygenation in 70% to 80% of patients with ARDS. With the utilization of a standardized protocol and a trained and dedicated critical care staff, prone positioning can be performed safely.

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