Review Article| Volume 57, P186-197, January 2023

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The use of early neuromuscular blockage in acute respiratory distress syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials

Published:October 12, 2022DOI:


      • Mortality in ARDS is evaluated at 40%.
      • No curative treatment has been found since its first publication in 1976.
      • Neuromuscular Blockers could show a potential effect.
      • Lower sedation levels could also be a beneficial factor on lowering mortality.



      Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) as defined by the Berlin definition has an approximate mortality rate of 40% and no curative treatment. Mutliple therapies have been studied to reduce mortality but only neuromuscular blocking agents show potential benefits on mortality and other complications of ARDS.


      This review aimed to investigate the efficacy of neuromuscular blockers in ARDS


      Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central and Web of Science were queried on October 1st, 2021. Randomized clinical trials comparing neuromuscular blockers to any comparator in treating ARDS were included. Primary outcome was mortality. Secondary outcomes were ventilator-free days, intensive care (ICU) length of stay (LOS) and complications. Results between sedation levels were examined with a Bayesian Network for Meta-analysis method.


      We included 6 trials compiling a total of 1557 patients. Neuromuscular blockers compared to any comparator in treating ARDS showed a reduction in mortality (RR 0.79 [95% CI, 0.62 to 0.99]). No difference in ventilator-free days (MD 0.68 [95% CI, -0.50 to 1.85]) or ICU LOS (MD 0.77 [95% CI, -2.99 to 4.54]) were found. A Bayesian Network Meta-analysis yielded no difference in mortality when using light sedation compared to heavy sedation in ARDS. (OR 0.58 [95% CrI, 0.07 to 4.46].)


      Neuromuscular blockers safely reduce mortality. Light sedation potentially has a similar impact on mortality as heavy sedation that carries some burden. A non-inferiority trial comparing both sedation levels may be warranted considering the added value of light sedation.


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