The cost of providing care to critically ill patients in the United States consumes roughly 15% of all health care dollars, or 1% of the gross national product.1 Contributing to this economic burden are patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) who require mechanical ventilation and patients with complications from their dependence on this technology.2,3 In fact, 50% of ICU patients receive mechanical ventilation.4
Often, sedation is required to increase patients’ tolerance of the endotracheal tube, reduce anxiety, and facilitate sleep. In particular, sedation is used frequently to reduce patient-ventilator dyssynchrony (PVD).5–9 Sassoon and Foster10 define PVD as a mismatching between the patient’s breaths (neural) and ventilator-assisted breaths (phase asynchrony), as well as the inability of the ventilator’s flow delivery to match the patient’s flow demand (flow asynchrony). This definition suggests a faulty interaction between the patient and ventilator that is commonly managed by sedation and advanced ventilator modes and adjustments. The correction of PVD is complex and multifaceted given the current capabilities of traditional ventilators. An imperfect solution exists because the sensitivity and responsiveness of both the patient and the ventilator during the interaction is confounded by factors related to the patient and the ventilator. However, in light of the most serious complications (hypoxemia, barotrauma, prolonged mechanical ventilation, and discomfort) of PVD, and an imperfect solution for the resolution of PVD at the current time, nurses continue to face the challenge of preventing the consequences of PVD as well as complications due to oversedation or undersedation.
In this article, we discuss the factors contributing to PVD; the manifestations, measurement, types, and causes of PVD; nursing implications; and future directions for improvement, with nursing research questions proposed for consideration.