Ann Surg. 2020 Aug;272(2):e63-e65. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004031.
BACKGROUND: A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) erupted in the latter part of 2019. The virus, SARS-CoV-2 can cause a range of symptoms ranging from mild through fulminant respiratory failure. Approximately 25% of hospitalized patients require admission to the intensive care unit, with the majority of those requiring mechanical ventilation. High density consolidations in the bronchial tree and in the pulmonary parenchyma have been described in the advanced phase of the disease. We noted a subset of patients who had a sudden, significant increase in peak airway, plateau and peak inspiratory pressures. Partial or complete ETT occlusion was noted to be the culprit in the majority of these patients.
METHODS: With institutional IRB approval, we examined a subset of our mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients. All of the patients were admitted to one of our COVID-19 ICUs. Each was staffed by a board certified intensivist. During multidisciplinary rounds, all arterial blood gas (ABG) results, ventilator settings and ventilator measurements are discussed and addressed. ARDSNet Protocols are employed. In patients with confirmed acute occlusion of the endotracheal tube (ETT), acute elevation in peak airway and peak inspiratory pressures are noted in conjunction with desaturation. Data was collected retrospectively and demographics, ventilatory settings and ABG results were recorded.
RESULTS: Our team has observed impeded ventilation in intubated patients who are several days into the critical course. Pathologic evaluation of the removed endotracheal tube contents from one of our patients demonstrated a specimen consistent with sloughed tracheobronchial tissues and inflammatory cells in a background of dense mucin. Of 110 patients admitted to our adult COVID-19 ICUs, 28 patients required urgent exchange of their ETT.
CONCLUSION: Caregivers need to be aware of this pathological finding, recognize, and to treat this aspect of the COVID-19 critical illness course, which is becoming more prevalent.