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Usefulness and safety of a dedicated team to prone patients with severe ARDS due to COVID-19

To the Editor:

Prone position ventilation has been shown to improve oxygenation and survival in patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) [1]. Facing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, prone positioning (PP) is of crucial importance to treat severe ARDS patients [2]. Nevertheless, the high number of ICU admissions quickly overwhelmed the ability of the daily ICU team to place patients in PP, a complex and time-consuming maneuver. Thus, we created a dedicated medical team with reassigned volunteers to cope with the large number of patients requiring PP.

PP Team consisted of five volunteers: a senior medical non-intensivist physician placed at the patient’s head to secure the endotracheal tube and four medical fellows or medical students placed at each side of the bed. For patients treated with VV-ECMO, a supplementary physician was added to secure the lines. Since PP is a complex procedure and has many potential adverse events requiring adequate and well-trained staff, volunteers received previously a theoretical training and a hands-on ad hoc training session. PP teams followed the guidelines for PP placement [1].

This retrospective observational study was performed in our extended ICU (from 22 to 46 beds), from the first day of deployment of PPT (March 23 to April 23, 2020).

The main characteristics and outcomes of prone positioned patients (n = 63) are presented in Table 1. A total of 367 placements in a prone or supine position were performed during the 1-month study period (Table 2).

Table 1 Initial characteristics and outcome of the prone positioned ARDS COVID-19 population (data are expressed as median (interquartile range, IQR) or number (%) as appropriate. After visual assumption of normality, Wilcoxon rank tests were applied for continuous variables. For categorical variables, Fisher’s exact or chi2 tests were applied as appropriate)
Table 2 Prone and supine placements and reported adverse events during the procedure on the study period. (data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation or number (percentage)). The 367 placements represent the placement in prone or supine positions

This specific medical team of trained non-intensivist volunteers was able to manage this delicate PP task without any major adverse events such as cardiac arrest or unscheduled extubation when compared to the relatively high incidence (respectively 6.8 and 13.3%) observed in Guérin et al. study [1]. Our studied population was comparable to already published series of severe ARDS, and we found a similar mortality (26%) despite a lower initial P/F ratio and COVID-19 association [1]. Interestingly, we recorded a greater survival rate than reported by Richardson et al. in the New York area at their edge of COVID-19 pandemic, but they did not detail the use of PP [3].

This innovative management allowed three major benefits: (i) critical relief of permanent intensive care team’s workload; (ii) reduction of the nurse-to-patient ratio, permitting also the reassignment of critical care nurses to newly created ICUs; and (iii) devoid of any self-censorship for fear of overwork and burn-out, intensivist physicians were able to strictly follow PP guideline recommendations, ensuring the best standard of care for ARDS patients.

Since the pathophysiology is poorly understood [4, 5], the specific role of PP among the optimal management for COVID-19 patients with ARDS, in order to reduce mortality needs to be addressed.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article. The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.


  1. Guérin C, Reignier J, Richard JC, Beuret P, Gacouin A, Boulain T, et al. Prone positioning in severe acute respiratory distress syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:2159–68.

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The DV-Team group


S. Barde1, A. Didelot1, B. Chenuel1, P. Zieminski2, M. Lorcin3, C. Schweitzer3, R. Karunna4, V. Moulin3, M. Huet3, F. Lacour3, P. Rodriguez3, D. Grandmougin5, Y. Liu5, P.A. Metzdorf6, M. Costa3, T. Fouquet7, A. Germain8, H. Chanty8, J. Levy9, A. Didier8, J. Lawton10, C. Parietti-Winkler4, A. Manuguerra11, C. Mazeaud11, C. Gaulier7, C. Rumeau4, L. Bourson10,M. Cholley-Roulleau12, A. Ionescu5, A. Gatin13, M. Perez7, A. Schwanké7, G. Lauria5, L. Freysz6, T. Cuinet14, J. Chauvelot4, C. Mottola15, T. Toussaint3, L. Dechambenoit3, F. Lagrange11, C. Mathieu3, C. Clément3, H. Benamron4, L. Dubouis16, H. Kremer17, L. Cabanel18, M. Falcetta3, V. Gorzkowski4, P. Campoli16, J. Cavailhes17, J. Zavoli19, C. Nominé-Criqui7, J. Felloni20, V. Cloché-Fouquet21, F.G. Midon17, G. Vaz17, D. Valentin3, V. Perkovic3, A. Courandon3, Y. Briot3, A. Epin22, K. Dreller13, L. Florion3, C. Larose3, M. Barron23, C. Sadoul24, M. Gimbert25, M. Fernandez17, T. Thomas3, P. Bichet3, N. Petkunaite25, S. Brahami4, D. Nguyen4, G. Vaz17, A. Schaefer13, C. Fabbri3, C. Ferri17, A. Gegout3, A. Poncy19., R. Delaplace26, M. Ammisaid5, J. Rebois4, B. Vendeville3, C. Dubroux21, R. Raynaud11, S. Moog3, C. Cottez7, L. Woirhaye3, J. Menet21, A.C. Madkaud21, L. Naisseline3, C. Mathieu3, T. Raze3, F. Violon27, M. Meiers17, D. Albanesi3, O. Durand3, L. Textoris28, T Dubost28

1- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Centre Universitaire de Médecine du Sport et Activité Physique Adaptée, F-54000 Nancy, France.

2- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Médecine Vasculaire F-54000 Nancy, France.

3- Université de Lorraine, Faculté de Médecine de Nancy, CHRU-Nancy, F-54000 Nancy, France.

4- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, ORL et Chirurgie Cervico-Faciale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

5- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Cardio-Vasculaire et Transplantations, F-54000 Nancy, France.

6- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Cardiologie Médicale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

7- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Unité Médicochirurgicale de Chirurgie Viscérale et Cancérologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

8- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Digestive et Générale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

9- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Biologie Médicale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

10- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Hépato-Gastro-Entérologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

11- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Urologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

12- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie de la main, F-54000 Nancy, France.

13- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Pédiatrie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

14- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Orthopédique Infantile, F-54000 Nancy, France.

15- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Néphrologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

16- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Anatomopathologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

17- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Orthopédique, F-54000 Nancy, France.

18- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Gynécologie Obstétrique, F-54000 Nancy, France.

19- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Département de Médecine Générale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

20- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Rééducation Fonctionnelle, F-54000 Nancy, France.

21- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Ophtalmologie, F-54000 Nancy, France.

22- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Nutrition. F-54000 Nancy, France.

23- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Maxillo-Faciale et Stomatologique, F-54000 Nancy, France.

24- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Vasculaire et Endoluminale, F-54000 Nancy, France.

25- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Consultations Pathologies Professionnelles. F-54000 Nancy, France.

26- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Chirurgie Infantile Viscérale. F-54000 Nancy, France.

27- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, Médecine Nucléaire. F-54000 Nancy, France.

28- Université de Lorraine, CHRU-Nancy, INSERM U1116, Médecine Intensive et Réanimation Brabois, F-54000 Nancy, France


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Data acquisition: AK. Data analysis: AK. Data interpretation: all authors. Manuscript drafting and revising: all authors. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bruno Levy.

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Kimmoun, A., Levy, B., Chenuel, B. et al. Usefulness and safety of a dedicated team to prone patients with severe ARDS due to COVID-19. Crit Care 24, 509 (2020).

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