Declining Use of Prone Positioning After High Initial Uptake in COVID-19 Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome∗

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OBJECTIVES: Prone positioning for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has historically been underused, but was widely adopted for COVID-19-associated ARDS early in the pandemic. Whether this successful implementation has been sustained over the first 3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown. In this study, we characterized proning use in patients with COVID-19 ARDS from March 2020 to December 2022. DESIGN: Multicenter retrospective observational study. SETTING: Five-hospital health system in Maryland, USA. PATIENTS: Adults with COVID-19 supported with invasive mechanical ventilation and with a Pao2/Fio2ratio of less than or equal to 150 mm Hg while receiving Fio2of greater than or equal to 0.6 within 72 hours of intubation. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS: We extracted demographic, clinical, and positioning data from the electronic medical record. The primary outcome was the initiation of proning within 48 hours of meeting criteria. We compared proning use by year with univariate and multivariate relative risk (RR) regression. Additionally, we evaluated the association of treatment during a COVID-19 surge period and receipt of prone positioning. MAIN RESULTS: We identified 656 qualifying patients; 341 from 2020, 224 from 2021, and 91 from 2022. More than half (53%) met severe ARDS criteria. Early proning occurred in 56.2% of patients in 2020, 56.7% in 2021, and 27.5% in 2022. This translated to a 51% reduction in use of prone positioning among patients treated in 2022 versus 2020 (RR = 0.49; 95% CI, 0.33-0.72; p < 0.001). This reduction remained significant in adjusted models (adjusted RR = 0.59; 95% CI, 0.42-0.82; p = 0.002). Treatment during COVID-19 surge periods was associated with a 7% increase in proning use (adjusted RR = 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.13; p = 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: The use of prone positioning for COVID-19 ARDS is declining. Interventions to increase and sustain appropriate use of this evidence-based therapy are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1547-1551
Number of pages5
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023


  • COVID-19
  • adult respiratory distress syndrome
  • implementation science
  • intensive care units
  • prone position

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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