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1.  Pro/con clinical debate: It is acceptable to stop large multicentre randomized controlled trials at interim analysis for futility 
Critical Care  2004;9(1):34-36.
A few recent, large, well-publicized trials in critical care medicine have been stopped for futility. In the critical care setting, stopping for futility means that independent review committees have elected to stop the trial early – based on predetermined rules – since the likelihood of finding a treatment effect is low. For bedside clinicians the idea of futility in a clinical trial can be confusing. In the present article, two experts in the conduct of clinical trials debate the role of futility-stopping rules.
PMCID: PMC1065108  PMID: 15693981
clinical research; futility; interim analysis; randomized controlled trials; stopping rules
2.  Furosemide and albumin for diuresis of edema (FADE): a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:222.
Fluid retention is a common complication of critical illness. It typically results from large-volume fluid infusions during acute resuscitation and is worsened by hypoalbuminemia. Recognized as edema, fluid retention is important for its association with delayed weaning and increased mortality. The standard treatment is the administration of diuretics, with or without albumin. We hypothesize that intravenous 25% albumin plus furosemide, by comparison with furosemide alone, improves diuresis, oxygenation, and hemodynamic stability in the deresuscitation of critically ill, hypoalbuminemic patients. We propose a pilot study to determine the feasibility of a trial to investigate this hypothesis.
FADE is a single-center, parallel, pilot randomized controlled trial. We aim to allocate 50 hemodynamically stable, hypoalbuminemic adult patients receiving diuresis to treatment with either 100 ml of either 25% albumin or normal saline placebo twice daily, for a total of six doses. Diuretics are to be prescribed by the caregiving team at least twice daily, and administered within 2 hours following study treatment. Patients, intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians, data collectors, and outcome adjudicators will be blinded to treatment allocation. Feasibility outcome measures include the proportion of patients receiving albumin within 2 hours of diuretic, the proportion of patients receiving the full six doses of study treatment, the proportion of patients who receive open label 25% albumin, and the rate of recruitment. Physiologic, laboratory, and clinical data are collected until discharge from the ICU or until 30 days.
This is the first randomized trial to assess the use of hyperoncotic albumin in addition to diuretics in a general ICU population. Should this pilot study demonstrate feasibility, the primary outcome measure of the larger clinical trial will be the number of ventilator-free days, with secondary clinical outcome measures of duration of mechanical ventilation, length of ICU stay, episodes of hemodynamic instability and mortality. The addition of 25% albumin to standard diuretic therapy is a promising treatment in the post-resuscitation care of the critically ill patient.
Trial registration NCT02055872; ISRCTN70191881.
PMCID: PMC4059098  PMID: 24919684
Albumin; Critical care; Edema; Furosemide; Diuresis; Post-resuscitation
3.  Noninvasive ventilation as a weaning strategy for mechanical ventilation in adults with respiratory failure: a Cochrane systematic review 
Noninvasive ventilation has been studied as a means of reducing complications among patients being weaned from invasive mechanical ventilation. We sought to summarize evidence comparing noninvasive and invasive weaning and their effects on mortality.
We identified relevant randomized and quasirandomized trials through searches of databases, conference proceedings and grey literature. We included trials comparing extubation and immediate application of noninvasive ventilation with continued invasive weaning in adults on mechanical ventilation. Two reviewers each independently screened citations, assessed trial quality and abstracted data. Our primary outcome was mortality.
We identified 16 trials involving 994 participants, most of whom had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Compared with invasive weaning, noninvasive weaning significantly reduced mortality (risk ratio [RR] 0.53, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.36 to 0.80), weaning failures (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.96), ventilator-associated pneumonia (RR 0.25, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.43), length of stay in the intensive care unit (mean difference [MD] −5.59 d, 95% CI −7.90 to −3.28) and in hospital (MD −6.04 d, 95% CI −9.22 to −2.87), and total duration of mechanical ventilation (MD −5.64 d, 95% CI −9.50 to −1.77). Noninvasive weaning had no significant effect on the duration of ventilation related to weaning, but significantly reduced rates of tracheostomy (RR 0.19, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.47) and reintubation (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.97). Mortality benefits were significantly greater in trials enrolling patients with COPD than in trials enrolling mixed patient populations (RR 0.36 [95% CI 0.24 to 0.56] v. RR 0.81 [95% CI 0.47 to 1.40]).
Noninvasive weaning reduces rates of death and pneumonia without increasing the risk of weaning failure or reintubation. In subgroup analyses, mortality benefits were significantly greater in patients with COPD.
PMCID: PMC3928231  PMID: 24324020
4.  Neuromuscular blocking agents in acute respiratory distress syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials 
Critical Care  2013;17(2):R43.
Randomized trials investigating neuromuscular blocking agents in adult acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have been inconclusive about effects on mortality, which is very high in this population. Uncertainty also exists about the associated risk of ICU-acquired weakness.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis. We searched the Cochrane (Central) database, MEDLINE, EMBASE, ACP Journal Club, and clinical trial registries for randomized trials investigating survival effects of neuromuscular blocking agents in adults with ARDS. Two independent reviewers abstracted data and assessed methodologic quality. Primary study investigators provided additional unpublished data.
Three trials (431 patients; 20 centers; all from the same research group in France) met inclusion criteria for this review. All trials assessed 48-hour infusions of cisatracurium besylate. Short-term infusion of cisatracurium besylate was associated with lower hospital mortality (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.58 to 0.91; P = 0.005; I2 = 0). This finding was robust on sensitivity analyses. Neuromuscular blockade was also associated with lower risk of barotrauma (RR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.20 to 0.90; P = 0.02; I2 = 0), but had no effect on the duration of mechanical ventilation among survivors (MD, 0.25 days; 95% CI, 5.48 to 5.99; P = 0.93; I2 = 49%), or the risk of ICU-acquired weakness (RR, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.83 to 1.41; P = 0.57; I2 = 0). Primary studies lacked protracted measurements of weakness.
Short-term infusion of cisatracurium besylate reduces hospital mortality and barotrauma and does not appear to increase ICU-acquired weakness for critically ill adults with ARDS.
PMCID: PMC3672502  PMID: 23497608
6.  Mortality associated with withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy for patients with severe traumatic brain injury: a Canadian multicentre cohort study 
Severe traumatic brain injury often leads to death from withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy, although prognosis is difficult to determine.
To evaluate variation in mortality following the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy and hospital mortality in patients with critical illness and severe traumatic brain injury, we conducted a two-year multicentre retrospective cohort study in six Canadian level-one trauma centres. The effect of centre on hospital mortality and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy was evaluated using multivariable logistic regression adjusted for baseline patient-level covariates (sex, age, pupillary reactivity and score on the Glasgow coma scale).
We randomly selected 720 patients with traumatic brain injury for our study. The overall hospital mortality among these patients was 228/720 (31.7%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 28.4%–35.2%) and ranged from 10.8% to 44.2% across centres (χ2 test for overall difference, p < 0.001). Most deaths (70.2% [160/228], 95% CI 63.9%–75.7%) were associated with withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy, ranging from 45.0% (18/40) to 86.8% (46/53) (χ2 test for overall difference, p < 0.001) across centres. Adjusted odd ratios (ORs) for the effect of centre on hospital mortality ranged from 0.61 to 1.55 (p < 0.001). The incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy varied by centre, with ORs ranging from 0.42 to 2.40 (p = 0.001). About one half of deaths that occurred following the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies happened within the first three days of care.
We observed significant variation in mortality across centres. This may be explained in part by regional variations in physician, family or community approaches to the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy. Considering the high proportion of early deaths associated with the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy and the limited accuracy of current prognostic indicators, caution should be used regarding early withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy following severe traumatic brain injury.
PMCID: PMC3185074  PMID: 21876014
7.  Clinical review: Intra-abdominal hypertension: does it influence the physiology of prone ventilation? 
Critical Care  2010;14(4):232.
Prone ventilation (PV) is a ventilatory strategy that frequently improves oxygenation and lung mechanics in critical illness, yet does not consistently improve survival. While the exact physiologic mechanisms related to these benefits remain unproven, one major theoretical mechanism relates to reducing the abdominal encroachment upon the lungs. Concurrent to this experience is increasing recognition of the ubiquitous role of intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH) in critical illness, of the relationship between IAH and intra-abdominal volume or thus the compliance of the abdominal wall, and of the potential difference in the abdominal influences between the extrapulmonary and pulmonary forms of acute respiratory distress syndrome. The present paper reviews reported data concerning intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) in association with the use of PV to explore the potential influence of IAH. While early authors stressed the importance of gravitationally unloading the abdominal cavity to unencumber the lung bases, this admonition has not been consistently acknowledged when PV has been utilized. Basic data required to understand the role of IAP/IAH in the physiology of PV have generally not been collected and/or reported. No randomized controlled trials or meta-analyses considered IAH in design or outcome. While the act of proning itself has a variable reported effect on IAP, abundant clinical and laboratory data confirm that the thoracoabdominal cavities are intimately linked and that IAH is consistently transmitted across the diaphragm - although the transmission ratio is variable and is possibly related to the compliance of the abdominal wall. Any proning-related intervention that secondarily influences IAP/IAH is likely to greatly influence respiratory mechanics and outcomes. Further study of the role of IAP/IAH in the physiology and outcomes of PV in hypoxemic respiratory failure is thus required. Theories relating inter-relations between prone positioning and the abdominal condition are presented to aid in designing these studies.
PMCID: PMC2945095  PMID: 20804560
8.  Pressure and Volume Limited Ventilation for the Ventilatory Management of Patients with Acute Lung Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14623.
Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are life threatening clinical conditions seen in critically ill patients with diverse underlying illnesses. Lung injury may be perpetuated by ventilation strategies that do not limit lung volumes and airway pressures. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing pressure and volume-limited (PVL) ventilation strategies with more traditional mechanical ventilation in adults with ALI and ARDS.
Methods and Findings
We searched Medline, EMBASE, HEALTHSTAR and CENTRAL, related articles on PubMed™, conference proceedings and bibliographies of identified articles for randomized trials comparing PVL ventilation with traditional approaches to ventilation in critically ill adults with ALI and ARDS. Two reviewers independently selected trials, assessed trial quality, and abstracted data. We identified ten trials (n = 1,749) meeting study inclusion criteria. Tidal volumes achieved in control groups were at the lower end of the traditional range of 10–15 mL/kg. We found a clinically important but borderline statistically significant reduction in hospital mortality with PVL [relative risk (RR) 0.84; 95% CI 0.70, 1.00; p = 0.05]. This reduction in risk was attenuated (RR 0.90; 95% CI 0.74, 1.09, p = 0.27) in a sensitivity analysis which excluded 2 trials that combined PVL with open-lung strategies and stopped early for benefit. We found no effect of PVL on barotrauma; however, use of paralytic agents increased significantly with PVL (RR 1.37; 95% CI, 1.04, 1.82; p = 0.03).
This systematic review suggests that PVL strategies for mechanical ventilation in ALI and ARDS reduce mortality and are associated with increased use of paralytic agents.
PMCID: PMC3030554  PMID: 21298026
9.  Wean Earlier and Automatically with New technology (the WEAN study): a protocol of a multicentre, pilot randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2009;10:81.
Weaning is the process during which mechanical ventilation is withdrawn and the work of breathing is transferred from the ventilator back to the patient. Prolonged weaning is associated with development of ventilator-related complications and longer stays in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Computerized or Automated Weaning is a novel weaning strategy that continuously measures and adapts ventilator support (by frequently measuring and averaging three breathing parameters) and automatically conducts Spontaneous Breathing Trials to ascertain whether patients can resume autonomous breathing. Automated Weaning holds promise as a strategy to reduce the time spent on the ventilator, decrease ICU length of stay, and improve clinically important outcomes.
A pilot weaning randomized controlled trial (RCT) is underway in the ICUs of 8 Canadian hospitals. We will randomize 90 critically ill adults requiring invasive ventilation for at least 24 hours and identified at an early stage of the weaning process to either Automated Weaning (SmartCare™) or Protocolized Weaning. The results of a National Weaning Survey informed the design of the Protocolized Weaning arm. Both weaning protocols are operationalized in Pressure Support mode, include opportunities for Spontaneous Breathing Trials, and share a common sedation protocol, oxygen titration parameters, and extubation and reintubation criteria. The primary outcome of the WEAN study is to evaluate compliance with the proposed weaning and sedation protocols. A key secondary outcome of the pilot RCT is to evaluate clinician acceptance of the weaning and sedation protocols. Prior to initiating the WEAN Study, we conducted a run-in phase, involving two patients per centre (randomizing the first participant to either weaning strategy and assigning the second patient to the alternate strategy) to ensure that participating centres could implement the weaning and sedation protocols and complete the detailed case report forms.
Mechanical ventilation studies are difficult to implement; requiring protocols to be operationalized continuously and entailing detailed daily data collection. As the first multicentre weaning RCT in Canada, the WEAN Study seeks to determine the feasibility of conducting a large scale future weaning trial and to establish a collaborative network of ICU clinicians dedicated to advancing the science of weaning.
Trial Registration Number
PMCID: PMC2749823  PMID: 19732444
11.  Oral decontamination for prevention of pneumonia in mechanically ventilated adults: systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;334(7599):889.
Objective To evaluate the effect of oral decontamination on the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia and mortality in mechanically ventilated adults.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources Medline, Embase, CINAHL, the Cochrane Library, trials registers, reference lists, conference proceedings, and investigators in the specialty.
Review methods Two independent reviewers screened studies for inclusion, assessed trial quality, and extracted data. Eligible trials were randomised controlled trials enrolling mechanically ventilated adults that compared the effects of daily oral application of antibiotics or antiseptics with no prophylaxis.
Results 11 trials totalling 3242 patients met the inclusion criteria. Among four trials with 1098 patients, oral application of antibiotics did not significantly reduce the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia (relative risk 0.69, 95% confidence interval 0.41 to 1.18). In seven trials with 2144 patients, however, oral application of antiseptics significantly reduced the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia (0.56, 0.39 to 0.81). When the results of the 11 trials were pooled, rates of ventilator associated pneumonia were lower among patients receiving either method of oral decontamination (0.61, 0.45 to 0.82). Mortality was not influenced by prophylaxis with either antibiotics (0.94, 0.73 to 1.21) or antiseptics (0.96, 0.69 to 1.33) nor was duration of mechanical ventilation or stay in the intensive care unit.
Conclusions Oral decontamination of mechanically ventilated adults using antiseptics is associated with a lower risk of ventilator associated pneumonia. Neither antiseptic nor antibiotic oral decontamination reduced mortality or duration of mechanical ventilation or stay in the intensive care unit.
PMCID: PMC1857782  PMID: 17387118
12.  Effect of nitric oxide on oxygenation and mortality in acute lung injury: systematic review and meta-analysis 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;334(7597):779.
Objective To review the literature on the use of inhaled nitric oxide to treat acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS) and to summarise the effects of nitric oxide, compared with placebo or usual care without nitric oxide, in adults and children with ALI or ARDS.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources Medline, CINAHL, Embase, and CENTRAL (to October 2006), proceedings from four conferences, and additional information from authors of 10 trials.
Review methods Two reviewers independently selected parallel group randomised controlled trials comparing nitric oxide with control and extracted data related to study methods, clinical and physiological outcomes, and adverse events.
Main outcome measures Mortality, duration of ventilation, oxygenation, pulmonary arterial pressure, adverse events.
Results 12 trials randomly assigning 1237 patients met inclusion criteria. Overall methodological quality was good. Using random effects models, we found no significant effect of nitric oxide on hospital mortality (risk ratio 1.10, 95% confidence interval 0.94 to 1.30), duration of ventilation, or ventilator-free days. On day one of treatment, nitric oxide increased the ratio of partial pressure of oxygen to fraction of inspired oxygen (PaO2/FiO2 ratio) (13%, 4% to 23%) and decreased the oxygenation index (14%, 2% to 25%). Some evidence suggested that improvements in oxygenation persisted until day four. There was no effect on mean pulmonary arterial pressure. Patients receiving nitric oxide had an increased risk of developing renal dysfunction (1.50, 1.11 to 2.02).
Conclusions Nitric oxide is associated with limited improvement in oxygenation in patients with ALI or ARDS but confers no mortality benefit and may cause harm. We do not recommend its routine use in these severely ill patients.
PMCID: PMC1852043  PMID: 17383982
15.  Drotrecogin alfa (activated): does current evidence support treatment for any patients with severe sepsis? 
Critical Care  2006;10(3):145.
Two international multicentre randomised controlled trials of drotrecogin alfa (activated) (DrotAA), the Recombinant Human Activated Protein C Worldwide Evaluation of Severe Sepsis (PROWESS) and Administration of Drotrecogin Alfa (Activated) in Early Stage Severe Sepsis (ADDRESS) trials, have produced inconsistent results. When 28-day mortality data from these trials for patients with severe sepsis and at high risk of death are pooled using a standard random-effects meta-analysis technique, there is no statistically significant survival benefit (for patients with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE II) scores of 25 or more), or a borderline significant benefit (for patients with multi-organ failure). We argue that two important methodological issues might explain the disparate results between the two trials. These issues centre on early trial stopping, which exaggerates treatment effects, and reliance on subgroup analyses, which for DrotAA yields inconsistent results across different definitions of high risk. These concerns call into question the effectiveness of DrotAA in any patients with severe sepsis. Consequently, further randomised trials of this agent in prospectively defined high-risk patients are required to clarify its role in the management of severe sepsis.
PMCID: PMC1550958  PMID: 16762040
16.  The attributable mortality and length of intensive care unit stay of clinically important gastrointestinal bleeding in critically ill patients 
Critical Care  2001;5(6):368-375.
To estimate the mortality and length of stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) attributable to clinically important gastrointestinal bleeding in mechanically ventilated critically ill patients.
Three strategies were used to estimate the mortality attributable to bleeding in two multicentre databases. The first method matched patients who bled with those who did not (matched cohort), using duration of ICU stay prior to the bleed, each of six domains of the Multiple Organ Dysfunction Score (MODS) measured 3 days prior to the bleed, APACHE II score, age, admitting diagnosis, and duration of mechanical ventilation. The second approach employed Cox proportional hazards regression to match bleeding and non-bleeding patients (model-based matched cohort). The third method, instead of matching, derived estimates based on regression modelling using the entire population (regression method). Three parallel analyses were conducted for the length of ICU stay attributable to clinically important bleeding.
Sixteen Canadian university-affiliated ICUs.
A total of 1666 critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation for at least 48 hours.
We prospectively collected data on patient demographics, APACHE II score, admitting diagnosis, daily MODS, clinically important bleeding, length of ICU stay, and mortality. Independent adjudicators determined the occurrence of clinically important gastrointestinal bleeding, defined as overt bleeding in association with haemodynamic compromise or blood transfusion.
Of 1666 patients, 59 developed clinically important gastrointestinal bleeding. The mean APACHE II score was 22.9 ± 8.6 among bleeding patients and 23.3 ± 7.7 among non-bleeding patients. The risk of death was increased in patients with bleeding using all three analytic approaches (matched cohort method: relative risk [RR]= 2.9, 95% confidence interval (CI)= 1.6–5.5; model-based matched cohort method: RR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.1–2.9; and the regression method: RR = 4.1, 95% CI = 2.6–6.5). However, this was not significant for the adjusted regression method (RR = 1.0, 95% CI = 0.6–1.7). The median length of ICU stay attributable to clinically important bleeding for these three methods, respectively, was 3.8 days (95% CI = -0.01 to 7.6 days), 6.7 days (95% CI = 2.7–10.7 days), and 7.9 days (95% CI = 1.4–14.4 days).
Clinically important upper gastrointestinal bleeding has an important attributable morbidity and mortality, associated with a RR of death of 1–4 and an excess length of ICU stay of approximately 4–8 days.
PMCID: PMC83859  PMID: 11737927
critical care; gastrointestinal bleeding; length of stay; matching mortality; regression analysis; stress ulceration
18.  An Evidence-Based Approach to the Clinical Examination 
PMCID: PMC1497085  PMID: 9100144

Results 1-18 (18)