In patients receiving mechanical ventilation, spontaneous awakening trials reduce morbidity and mortality when paired with spontaneous breathing trials. However, spontaneous awakening trials are not performed every day they are indicated and little is known about spontaneous awakening trial protocol use in cardiac intensive care units.

Local Problem

Spontaneous awakening trial completion rate at the study institution was low and no trial protocol was regularly used.


A preintervention-postintervention retrospective cohort study was performed in adult patients with at least 24 hours of invasive mechanical ventilation in Michigan Medicine’s cardiac intensive care unit. Patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection were excluded. Data included demographics, sedation, mechanical ventilation duration, and in-hospital mortality. A nurse-driven spontaneous awakening trial protocol modified for the cardiac intensive care unit was implemented in October 2020.


Compared with the preintervention cohort (n = 29, May through July 2020), the postintervention cohort (n = 27, October 2020 through February 2021) had a higher ratio of number of trials performed to number of days eligible for trial (0.91 vs 0.52; P < .01). Median continuous sedative infusion duration was shorter after intervention (2.3 vs 3.6 days; P = .02). Median mechanical ventilation duration (3.8 vs 4.7 days; P = .18) and mortality (41% vs 41%; P = .95) were similar between groups.


Spontaneous awakening trial protocol implementation led to a higher trial completion rate and a shorter duration of continuous sedative infusion. Larger studies are needed to assess the impact of protocolized spontaneous awakening trials on cardiac intensive care unit patient outcomes.

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