Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a common cause for intensive care unit (ICU) admission resulting in high morbidity and mortality. There is a paucity of evidence regarding respiratory physiotherapy for intubated and mechanically ventilated patients with CAP, and anecdotally clinical practice is variable in this cohort. The aims of this study were to identify the degree of variability in physiotherapy practice for intubated adult patients with CAP and to explore ICU physiotherapist perceptions of current practice for this cohort and factors that influence physiotherapy treatment mode, duration, and frequency.
A survey was developed based on common aspects of assessment, clinical rationale, and intervention for intubated and mechanically ventilated patients. Senior ICU physiotherapists across 88 Australian public and private hospitals were recruited.
The response rate was 72%. Respondents (n = 75) stated their main rationale for providing a respiratory intervention were improved airway clearance (98%, n = 60/61), alveolar recruitment (74%, n = 45/61), and gas exchange (33%, n = 20/61). Respondents estimated that average intervention lasted between 16 and 30 minutes (70% of respondents, n = 41/59) and would be delivered once (44%) or twice (44%) daily. Results indicated large variability in reported practice; however, trends existed regarding positioning in alternate side-lying (81%, n = 52/64) or affected lung uppermost (83%, n = 53/64) and use of hyperinflation techniques (81%, 52/64). Decisions regarding duration were reported to be based on sputum volume (95%), viscosity (93%) and purulence (88%), cough effectiveness (95%), chest X-ray (87%), and auscultation (84%). Sixty percent reported that workload and staffing affected intervention duration and frequency. Intervention time was more likely increased when there was greater staffing (P = .03).
Respiratory physiotherapy treatment varies for intubated patients with CAP. Further research is required to determine what is considered best practice for this patient population.