Identifying risk factors for unplanned extubation in patients receiving mechanical ventilation can help guide prevention strategies.


To assess the risk of unplanned extubation with different sedation strategies.


A 36-month quality improvement study in a 33-bed intensive care unit at a tertiary-care center.


A total of 92 unplanned extubations occurred (7.5 events/1000 days of mechanical ventilation): patients who were receiving continuous sedation protocol with daily interruption of sedatives had 1.5 events/1000 ventilator days, patients receiving the intermittent sedation protocol had 5.0 events/1000 days, and patients with no sedation protocol had 16 events/1000 days (P < .05). Median duration of mechanical ventilation before unplanned extubation was 2 days. Most unplanned extubations (94%) were deliberate, and 53% occurred in patients scheduled for weaning. Most unplanned extubations in the continuous sedation protocol group (71%) occurred during weaning, in comparison to the intermittent sedation protocol (54%) and no sedation protocol groups (48%, P< .05). The highest incidences of agitation were in patients receiving the intermittent sedation protocol as compared with the other 2 groups (77% vs 50% vs 49%, P < .05). Overall, 73% of patients who had an unplanned extubation did not require reintubation; those who did were older (mean age: 68 vs 53 years, P = .01) and were male (80% vs 20%, P= .02). Reintubation was unrelated to the time of unplanned extubation.


Strategies of no sedation or intermittent sedation are both associated with higher rates of unplanned extubation when compared to a strategy of continuous sedation with daily interruption of sedatives. Sedation strategies that allow agitation may increase the risk of unplanned extubation.

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