Background

At the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Italy had the highest number of deaths in Europe; most occurred in the Lombardy region. Up to 4% of patients with COVID-19 required admission to an intensive care unit because they developed a critical illness (eg, acute respiratory distress syndrome). Numerous patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome who had been admitted to the intensive care unit required rescue therapy like prone positioning.

Objectives

To describe the respiratory management of and the extensive use of prone positioning in patients with COVID-19 at the intensive care unit hub in Lombardy, Italy.

Methods

A total of 89 patients (67% male; median age, 59 years [range, 23-80 years]) with confirmed COVID-19 who were admitted between February 23 and March 31, 2020, were enrolled in this quality improvement project.

Results

Endotracheal intubation was required in 86 patients (97%). Prone positioning was used as rescue therapy in 43 (48%) patients. Significantly more younger patients (age ≤ 59 years) were discharged alive (43 of 48 [90%]) than were older patients (age ≥ 60 years; 26 of 41 [63%]; P < .005). Among the 43 patients treated with prone ventilation, 15 (35% [95% CI, 21%-51%]) died in the intensive care unit, of which 10 (67%; P < .001) were older patients.

Conclusions

Prone positioning is one strategy available for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome in patients with COVID-19. During this pandemic, prone positioning can be used extensively as rescue therapy, per a specific protocol, in intensive care units.

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