2 - Qatar Critical Care Conference Proceedings
  • ISSN: 0253-8253
  • EISSN: 2227-0426


Prone position has been used since the 1970s as a rescue therapy to treat severe hypoxemia in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Despite numerous observational and randomized controlled trials showing the effectiveness of prone position in improving oxygenation, mortality benefit was demonstrated only recently in the PROSEVA study1. Intensivists taking care of patients with ARDS should be aware about the physiological changes during prone ventilation, the latest evidence available and challenges that can be encountered in managing such patients. When a person is supine, the weight of the ventral lungs, heart, and abdominal viscera increase dorsal pleural pressure. This compression reduces transpulmonary pressure in the dorsal lung regions. The increased mass of the edematous ARDS lung further increases the ventral-dorsal pleural pressure gradient and reduces regional ventilation of dependent dorsal regions. The ventral heart is estimated to contribute approximately an additional 3 to 5 cm of water pressure to the underlying lung tissue. In addition to the weight of the heart, intraabdominal pressure is preferentially transmitted through the diaphragm, further compressing dorsal regions. Although these factors tend to collapse dependent dorsal regions, the gravitational gradient in vascular pressures preferentially perfuses these regions, yielding a region of low ventilation and high perfusion, manifesting clinically as hypoxemia. Placing a person in the prone position reduces the pleural pressure gradient from nondependent to dependent regions, in part through gravitational effects and conformational shape matching of the lung to the chest cavity2 [Figure 1]. A few large randomized clinical trials, conducted over a period of 15 years, investigated the possible benefit of prone position on ARDS outcome [Table 1]. The improvements in oxygenation apparent in most trials were not associated with improvements in mortality, suggesting that oxygenation is not itself the source of improved survival with prone positioning. Most recently, the PROSEVA study group1 enrolled 466 subjects with moderate-to-severe ARDS. Mortality at 28 and 90 days was significantly lower with prone position versus supine position (16% vs 33%, respectively, p < 0.001, and 24% vs 41%, respectively, p < 0.001). There are only a few absolute contraindications to prone positioning, such as unstable vertebral fractures and unmonitored or significantly increased intracranial pressure. Hemodynamic instability and cardiac rhythm disturbances are some of the relative contraindications. The common complications of prone positioning are pressure ulcers, ventilator-associated pneumonia and endotracheal tube obstruction. More serious fatal events such as accidental extubation is rare (zero to 2.4% prevalence). A recent meta-analysis of the safety and efficacy of the maneuver showed that it is safe and inexpensive but requires teamwork and skill. Reports in the literature suggest that the incidence of adverse events is significantly reduced in the presence of trained and experienced staff. Thus, centers with less experience may have difficulty managing complications, but nursing care protocols and guidelines can mitigate this risk4. Prone position ventilation in patients with moderate-to-severe ARDS improves hypoxemia, provides mortality benefit and is relatively safe.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Guerin 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; 368:23:21592168.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Scholten EL, Beitler JR, Prisk GK, Malhotra A. Treatment of ARDS With Prone Positioning. Chest. 2017; 151:1:215224.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Henderson WR, Griesdale DE, Dominelli P, Ronco JJ. Does prone positioning improve oxygenation and reduce mortality in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome? Can Respir J. 2014; 21:4:213215.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Lee JM, Bae W, Lee YJ, Cho YJ. The efficacy and safety of prone positional ventilation in acute respiratory distress syndrome: updated study-level meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials. Crit Care Med. 2014; 42:5:12521262.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error