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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Effects of increasing compliance with minimal sedation on duration of mechanical ventilation: a quality improvement intervention

Andre CKB Amaral12*, Lars Kure1 and Angie Jeffs1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Ave, Toronto, M4N 3M5, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine, University of Toronto, 2075 Bayview Ave, Toronto, M4N 3M5, Canada

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Critical Care 2012, 16:R78  doi:10.1186/cc11335

Published: 8 May 2012



In the past two decades, healthcare adopted industrial strategies for process measurement and control. In the industry model, care is taken to avoid minimal deviations from a standard. In healthcare there is scarce data to support that a similar strategy can lead to better outcomes. Briefly, when compliance is high, further attempts to improve uptake of a process are seldom made. Our intensive care unit (ICU) improved the compliance with minimizing sedation from a high baseline of 80.4% (95% CI: 66.9 to 90.2) to 96.2% (95% CI: 95.2 to 97.0) 12 months after a quality improvement initiative. We sought to measure whether this minute improvement in compliance led to a reduction in duration of mechanical ventilation.


We collected data on compliance with the process during 12 months. A trained data collector abstracted data from charts every other day. Our database contains data for length of mechanical ventilation, mortality, type of admission, and acute physiology and chronic health evaluation (APACHE) II scores for the 12 months before and after the process improvement.

To control for secular trends we used an interrupted-time series with adjustment for auto-correlation. We calculated the expected length of mechanical ventilation on each month by the end of the intervention period, and calculated the fitted value for the post-intervention months.


We included 1556 patients. There was an immediate effect of the intervention (regression coefficient = -0.129, P value < 0.001) and the secular trend was a determinant of length of mechanical ventilation (regression coefficient = 0.010, P value = 0.004). The trend post-intervention was not significant (regression coefficient = 0.004, P value = 0.380).

The relative change in the length of mechanical ventilation was 14.5% (IQR 13.8% to 15.8%) and the total expected decrease in mechanical ventilation days was 502.7 days (95% CI 300.9 to 729.1) over one year.


In a system already working at high levels of compliance, outcomes can still be improved. Our intervention was successful in reducing the length of mechanical ventilation. ICUs should have a process of quality assurance in place to provide constant monitoring of key quality of care processes and correct deviations from the proposed standard.