J Intensive Care Med. 2021 Mar 15:885066621989959. doi: 10.1177/0885066621989959. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE.: To report the high incidence of barotrauma in critically ill patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to discuss its implications.
DESIGN.: Retrospective cohort study.
SETTING.: ICU of an academic county hospital in Los Angeles, CA admitted from March 15-June 20, 2020.
PATIENTS.: 77 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. 75 patients met inclusion criteria.
RESULTS.: 21% of patients with severe COVID-19 sustained barotrauma (33% of patients receiving IMV, 8% of patients receiving (NIV). There were no differences between the barotrauma and non-barotrauma groups regarding demographics, illness severity, or medications received, nor tidal volume or average/peak airway pressures in those receiving IMV. In the barotrauma group there was a greater proportion of patients receiving therapeutic anticoagulation (81% vs. 47%, p = 0.023) and ventilated using airway pressure release ventilation mode (13% vs. 0%, p = 0.043). Barotrauma was associated with increased likelihood of receiving a tracheostomy (OR 2.58 [0.23-4.9], p = 0.018]), longer median ICU length of stay (17 days vs. 7 days, p = 0.03), and longer median length of hospitalization (26 days vs. 14 days, p < 0.001). There was also a trend toward prolonged median duration of IMV (12.5 days vs 7 days, p = 0.13) and higher average mortality (56% vs 37%, p = 0.25).
CONCLUSIONS.: Barotrauma is seen in 5-12% of patients with ARDS receiving IMV and is exceedingly rare in patients receiving NIV. We report a high incidence of barotrauma observed in critically ill patients with COVID-19 requiring either NIV or IMV. While there was a trend toward increased mortality in patients with barotrauma, this did not reach statistical significance. The increased incidence of barotrauma with COVID-19 may be a product of the pathophysiology of this disease state and a heightened inflammatory response causing rampant acute lung injury. Evidence-based medicine and lung-protective ventilation should remain the mainstay of treatment.