Symptom assessment for mechanically ventilated patients: Principles and priorities


Mechanically ventilated patients experience many adverse symptoms, such as anxiety, thirst, and dyspnea. However, these common symptoms are not included in practice guideline recommendations for routine assessment of mechanically ventilated patients. An American Thoracic Society-sponsored workshop with researchers and clinicians with expertise in critical care and symptom management was convened for a discussion of symptom assessment in mechanically ventilated patients. Members included nurses, physicians, a respiratory therapist, a speech–language pathologist, a critical care pharmacist, and a former intensive care unit patient. This report summarizes existing evidence and consensus among workshop participants regarding 1) symptoms that should be considered for routine assessment of adult patients receiving mechanical ventilation; 2) key symptom assessment principles; 3) strategies that support symptom assessment in nonvocal patients; and 4) areas for future clinical practice development and research. Systematic patient-centered assessment of multiple symptoms has great potential to minimize patient distress and improve the patient experience. A culture shift is necessary to promote ongoing holistic symptom assessment with valid and reliable instruments. This report represents our workgroup consensus on symptom assessment for mechanically ventilated patients. Future work should address how holistic, patient-centered symptom assessment can be embedded into clinical practice.


respiration, artificial, symptom assessment, critical care, critical illness

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