Objective: Deep sedation and delirium are common in the ICU. Mechanically ventilated patients with acute lung injury are at especially high risk for deep sedation, delirium, and associated long-term physical and neuropsychiatric impairments. We undertook an ICU-wide structured quality improvement project to decrease sedation and delirium.
Design: Prospective quality improvement project in comparison with a retrospective acute lung injury control group.
Setting: Sixteen-bed medical ICU in an academic teaching hospital with pre-existing use of goal-directed sedation with daily interruption of sedative infusions.
Patients: Consecutive acute lung injury patients.
Intervention: A “4Es” framework (engage, educate, execute, evaluate) was used as part of the quality improvement process. A new sedation protocol was created and implemented, which recommends a target Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale score of 0 (alert and calm) and requires failure of intermittent sedative dosing prior to starting continuous infusions. In addition, twice-daily delirium screening using the Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU was introduced into routine practice.
Measurements and Main Results: Sedative use and delirium status in acute lung injury patients after implementation of the quality improvement project (n = 82) were compared with a historical control group (n = 120). During the quality improvement vs. control periods, use of narcotic and benzodiazepine infusions were substantially lower (median proportion of medical ICU days per patient: 33% vs. 74%, and 22% vs. 70%, respectively, both p < 0.001). Further, wakefulness increased (median Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale score per patient: −1.5 vs. −4.0, p < 0.001), and days awake and not delirious increased (median proportion of medical ICU days per patient: 19% vs. 0%, p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Through a structured quality improvement process, use of sedative infusions can be substantially decreased and days awake without delirium significantly increased, even in severely ill, mechanically ventilated patients with acute lung injury.