RATIONALE - Studies have shown that reducing sedation of critically ill patients shortens time on the ventilator and in the intensive care unit (ICU). Little is known, however, of how such strategies affect long-term cognitive, psychological, and functional outcomes.
OBJECTIVES - To determine the long-term effects of a wake up and breathe protocol that interrupts and reduces sedative exposure in the ICU.
METHODS - In this a priori planned substudy conducted at one tertiary care hospital during the Awakening and Breathing Controlled Trial, a multicenter randomized controlled trial, we assessed cognitive, psychological, and functional/quality-of-life outcomes 3 and 12 months postdischarge among 180 medical ICU patients randomized to paired daily spontaneous awakening trials with spontaneous breathing trials (SBTs) or to sedation per usual care plus daily SBTs.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS - Cognitive impairment was less common in the intervention group at 3-month follow-up (absolute risk reduction, 20.2%; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-36.1%; P = 0.03) but not at 12-month follow-up (absolute risk reduction, -1.9%; 95% CI, -21.3 to 27.1%; P = 0.89). Composite cognitive scores, alternatively, were similar in the two groups at 3-month and 12-month follow-up (P = 0.80 and 0.61, respectively), as were symptoms of depression (P = 0.59 and 0.82) and posttraumatic stress disorder (P = 0.59 and 0.97). Activities of daily living, functional status, and mental and physical quality of life were similar between groups throughout follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS - In this trial, management of mechanically ventilated medical ICU patients with a wake up and breathe protocol resulted in similar cognitive, psychological, and functional outcomes among patients tested 3 and 12 months post-ICU. The proven benefits of this protocol, including improved 1-year survival, were not offset by adverse long-term outcomes. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT 00097630).