Specialized team cuts death risk for obese respiratory failure patients

Establishing a specialized lung rescue team to help treat obese patients on a ventilator due to acute respiratory failure has helped Massachusetts General Hospital reduce death risk among these patients by nearly 50 percent for up to one year, according to a study published in Critical Care.

The Boston-based hospital created the lung rescue team in 2014. It includes a critical care physician and two critical care fellows trained in cardio-pulmonary physiology. They are asked to consult on cases involving patients with obesity and acute respiratory failure within the first 24 hours of their admission to the intensive care unit.

In the five years since the team's creation, it has helped determine the ventilator settings in the ICU for 50 patients with severe obesity. Researchers compared the death rate for these 50 patients to the death rate of 70 other obese patients whose ventilator settings were based on standard protocols.

They found that the patients treated by the lung rescue team had a 16 percent death rate at 28 days compared to 31 percent for the standard protocols group. At three months, the mortality rate was 22 percent for the lung rescue team group and 41 percent for the standard protocols group.

The death rates for the two groups were similar, however, at the end of one year.

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