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The impact of aggressive and conservative propensity for initiation of neuromuscular blockade in mechanically ventilated patients with hypoxemic respiratory failure.

INTRODUCTION: Neuromuscular blockade (NMB) in ventilated patients may cause benefit or harm. We applied "incremental interventions" to determine the impact of altering NMB initiation aggressiveness.

METHODS: Retrospective cohort study of ventilated patients with PaO2/FiO2 ratio < 150 mmHg and PEEP≥ 8cmH2O from the Medical Information Mart of Intensive Care IV database (MIMIC-IV version 1.0) estimating the effect of incremental interventions on in-hospital mortality and ventilator-free days, modifying hourly propensity for NMB initiation to be aggressive or conservative relative to usual care, adjusting for confounding with inverse probability weighting.

RESULTS: 5221 patients were included (13.3% initiated on NMB). Incremental interventions estimated a strong effect on NMB usage: 5-fold higher hourly odds of initiation increased usage to 36.5% (CI = [34.3%,38.7%]) and 5-fold lower odds decreased usage to 3.8% (CI = [3.3%,4.3%]). Aggressive and conservative strategies demonstrated a U-shaped mortality relationship. 5-fold higher or lower propensity increased in-hospital mortality by 2.6% (0.95 CI = [1.5%,3.7%]) or 1.3% (0.95 CI = [0.1%,2.5%]) respectively. In secondary analysis of a healthier patient cohort, results were similar, however conservative strategies also improved ventilator-free days.

INTERPRETATION: Aggressive or conservative initiation of NMB may worsen mortality. In healthier populations, marginally conservative NMB initiation strategies may lead to increased ventilator free days with minimal impact on mortality.

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