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Critical Care

Open Access

Neuromuscular blocking agents in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome: a summary of the current evidence from three randomized controlled trials

  • VGM Pereira1
Critical Care201317(Suppl 3):P41

Published: 19 June 2013


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a potentially fatal disease with high mortality. Our aim was to summarize the current evidence for use of neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) in the early phase of ARDS.


A systematic review and meta-analysis of publications between 1966 and 2012. The Medline and CENTRAL databases were searched for studies on NMBA in patients with ARDS. The meta-analysis was limited to: randomized controlled trials; adult human patients with ARDS or acute lung injury; and use of any NMBA in one arm of the study compared with another arm without NMBA. The outcomes assessed were: overall mortality, ventilator-free days, time of mechanical ventilation, adverse events, and changes in gas exchange, in ventilator settings, and in respiratory mechanics.


Three randomized controlled trials covering 431 participants were included. Patients treated with NMBA showed less mortality (risk ratio, 0.71 (95% CI, 0.55 to 0.90); number needed to treat, 1 to 7), more ventilator-free days at day 28 (P = 0.020), higher PaO2 to FiO2 ratios (P = 0.004), and less barotraumas (P = 0.030). The incidence of critical illness neuromyopathy was similar (P = 0.540).


The use of NMBA in the early phase of ARDS improves outcome.

Authors’ Affiliations

ABC Medical School (FMABC), Príncipe De Gales, Santo André, Brazil


© Pereira et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.