Mechanical Ventilation, Weaning Practices, and Decision Making in European PICUs*

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This survey had three key objectives: 1) To describe responsibility for key ventilation and weaning decisions in European PICUs and explore variations across Europe; 2) To describe the use of protocols, spontaneous breathing trials, noninvasive ventilation, high-flow nasal cannula use, and automated weaning systems; and 3) To describe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and perceived nursing autonomy and influence over ventilation decision making.


Cross-sectional electronic survey.


European PICUs.


Senior ICU nurse and physician from participating PICUs.



Measurements and Main Results:

Response rate was 64% (65/102) representing 19 European countries. Determination of weaning failure was most commonly based on collaborative decision making (81% PICUs; 95% CI, 70–89%). Compared to this decision, selection of initial ventilator settings and weaning method was least likely to be collaborative (relative risk, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.20–0.47 and relative risk, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.32–0.45). Most PICUs (> 75%) enabled physicians in registrar (fellow) positions to have responsibility for key ventilation decisions. Availability of written guidelines/protocols for ventilation (31%), weaning (22%), and noninvasive ventilation (33%) was uncommon, whereas sedation protocols (66%) and sedation assessment tools (76%) were common. Availability of protocols was similar across European regions (all p > 0.05). High-flow nasal cannula (53%), noninvasive ventilation (52%) to avoid intubation, and spontaneous breathing trials (44%) were used in approximately half the PICUs greater than 50% of the time. A nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:2 was most frequent for invasively (50%) and noninvasively (70%) ventilated patients. Perceived nursing autonomy (median [interquartile range], 4 [2–6]) and influence (median [interquartile range], 7 [5–8]) for ventilation and weaning decisions varied across Europe (p = 0.007 and p = 0.01, respectively) and were highest in Northern European countries.


We found variability across European PICUs in interprofessional team involvement for ventilation decision making, nurse staffing, and perceived nursing autonomy and influence over decisions. Patterns of adoption of tools/adjuncts for weaning and sedation were similar.

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