Variation in Definition of Prolonged Mechanical Ventilation Academic Article uri icon

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  • Consistency of definitional criteria for terminology applied to describe subject cohorts receiving mechanical ventilation within ICU and post-acute care settings is important for understanding prevalence, risk stratification, effectiveness of interventions, and projections for resource allocation. Our objective was to quantify the application and definition of terms for prolonged mechanical ventilation. We conducted a scoping review of studies (all designs except single-case study) reporting a study population (adult and pediatric) using the term prolonged mechanical ventilation or a synonym. We screened 5,331 references, reviewed 539 full-text references, and excluded 120. Of the 419 studies (representing 38 countries) meeting inclusion criteria, 297 (71%) reported data on a heterogeneous subject cohort, and 66 (16%) included surgical subjects only (46 of those 66, 70% cardiac surgery). Other studies described COPD (16, 4%), trauma (22, 5%), neuromuscular (17, 4%), and sepsis (1, 0.2%) cohorts. A total of 741 terms were used to refer to the 419 study cohorts. The most common terms were: prolonged mechanical ventilation (253, 60%), admission to specialized unit (107, 26%), and long-term mechanical ventilation (79, 19%). Some authors (282, 67%) defined their cohorts based on duration of mechanical ventilation, with 154 studies (55%) using this as the sole criterion. We identified 37 different durations of ventilation ranging from 5 h to 1 y, with > 21 d being the most common (28 of 282, 7%). For studies describing a surgical cohort, minimum ventilation duration required for inclusion was ≥ 24 h for 20 of 66 studies (30%). More than half of all studies (237, 57%) did not provide a reason/rationale for definitional criteria used, with only 28 studies (7%) referring to a consensus definition. We conclude that substantial variation exists in the terminology and definitional criteria for cohorts of subjects receiving prolonged mechanical ventilation. Standardization of terminology and definitional criteria is required for study data to be maximally informative.


  • Rose, Louise
  • McGinlay, Michael
  • Amin, Reshma
  • Burns, Karen
  • Connolly, Bronwen
  • Hart, Nicholas
  • Jouvet, Philippe
  • Katz, Sherri
  • Leasa, David
  • Mawdsley, Cathy
  • McAuley, Danny F
  • Schultz, Marcus J
  • Blackwood, Bronagh

publication date

  • October 2017