Background: The use of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) as a therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) secondary to COVID-19 pneumonia has been controversial. NIV is an aerosol generating procedure which may increase the risk of viral transmission amongst patients and staff. Because of fear of aerosolizing the virus and transmitting the disease, initial expert recommendation was to avoid NIV and proceed with early intubation. With further experience of the virus, this recommendation has been challenged and NIV has been used widely with some retrospective studies quoting between 11 to 56 percent of COVID-19 related respiratory failures being treated with NIV.
Objective: The objective of this study is to assess the efficacy and safety of using non-invasive mechanical ventilation as an alveolar recruitment method for patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. This method was used by our respiratory team on selected patients during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: We reviewed the charts of patients that were admitted to the American Hospital Dubai intensive care unit, or our medical step-down unit who had diffuse bilateral infiltrates requiring oxygen supplementation between March and October 2020. We identified patients who were on intermittent BiPAP in addition to standard care. We also monitored the rate of infection among staff taking care of these patients.
Results: Average length of stay after starting BIPAP therapy was 6.8 days, while the average total length of stay was 13.6 days. Only one patient was transferred to the ICU after being on the BIPAP protocol and did not need intubation. All patients were discharged home either without oxygen or with their chronic baseline home oxygen requirement. Radiological improvement in aeration was seen in 100% of patients at follow-up x-ray postintervention. There were no reported pulmonary complications from barotrauma, such as pneumothorax or pneumomediastinum. There were no reported cases of staff infection to the health care workers that were taking care of these patients.
Conclusion: Our first of its kind observational study showed clearly that using BIPAP therapy for one hour three times daily during nebulization therapy in addition to standard care resulted in a significant reduction in hospital length of stay and hastened the clinical and radiological improvement of patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.2648] [PMID: 32091533]
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI105428] [PMID: 5338606]