Tolerability and safety of awake prone positioning COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxemic respiratory failure

Kevin Solverson, Jason Weatherald, Ken Kuljit S Parhar
Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia, Journal Canadien D'anesthésie 2020 August 14

PURPOSE: Prone positioning of non-intubated patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and hypoxemic respiratory failure may prevent intubation and improve outcomes. Nevertheless, there are limited data on its feasibility, safety, and physiologic effects. The objective of our study was to assess the tolerability and safety of awake prone positioning in COVID-19 patients with hypoxemic respiratory failure.

METHODS: This historical cohort study was performed across four hospitals in Calgary, Canada. Included patients had suspected COVID-19 and hypoxic respiratory failure requiring intensive care unit (ICU) consultation, and underwent awake prone positioning. The duration, frequency, tolerability, and adverse events from prone positioning were recorded. Respiratory parameters were assessed before, during, and after prone positioning. The primary outcome was the tolerability and safety of prone positioning.

RESULTS: Seventeen patients (n = 12 ICU, n = 5 hospital ward) were included between April and May 2020. The median (range) number of prone positioning days was 1 (1-7) and the median number of sessions was 2 (1-6) per day. The duration of prone positioning was 75 (30-480) min, and the peripheral oxygen saturation was 91% (84-95) supine and 98% (92-100) prone. Limitations to prone position duration were pain/general discomfort (47%) and delirium (6%); 47% of patients had no limitations. Seven patients (41%) required intubation and two patients (12%) died.

CONCLUSIONS: In a small sample, prone positioning non-intubated COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxemia was safe; however, many patients did not tolerate prolonged durations. Although patients had improved oxygenation and respiratory rate in the prone position, many still required intubation. Future studies are required to determine methods to improve the tolerability of awake prone positioning and whether there is an impact on clinical outcomes.

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