Lateral-Horizontal Patient Position and Horizontal Orientation of the Endotracheal Tube to Prevent Aspiration in Adult Surgical Intensive Care Unit Patients: A Feasibility Study

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BACKGROUND: Recent data suggest that during mechanical ventilation the lateral-horizontal patient position (in which the endotracheal tube is horizontal) decreases the risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia, compared to the recommended semi-recumbent position (in which the endotracheal tube slopes downward into the trachea). We tested the feasibility of the lateral-horizontal patient position, measured the incidence of aspiration of gastric contents, and watched for any adverse effects related to the lateral-horizontal position. METHODS: Ten adult intensive care unit patients were ventilated for 64 hours in the standard semi-recumbent position, and ten for 12‐24 hours in the lateral-horizontal position. Tracheal secretions were collected every 8 hours and every 4 hours, respectively, and tested for pepsin, which is a marker of gastric contents. We also recorded clinical, physiologic, and outcome variables. RESULTS: The patients remained stable during ventilation in the lateral-horizontal position, and no adverse events occurred. Pepsin was detected in the trachea of 7 semi-recumbent patients and in five of the lateral-horizontal patients (P = .32). The number of ventilator-free days was 8 days (range 0‐21 days) in the semi-recumbent patients, versus 24 days (range 12‐25 days) in the lateral-horizontal patients (P = .04). CONCLUSIONS: Implementing the lateral-horizontal position for 12‐24 hours in adult intubated intensive care unit patients is feasible, and our patients had no adverse events. The incidence of aspiration of gastric contents in the lateral-horizontal position seems to be similar to that in the semi-recumbent position.

Keywords: aspiration of gastric contents; lateral-horizontal position; pepsin; prevention; ventilator-associated pneumonia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Perioperative Medicine and Intensive Care, San Gerardo Hospital, University of Milano-Bicocca, Monza, Italy

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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