Researchers Find Variation in States’ Ventilator Allocation Guidelines

In this systematic review of publicly available U.S. state guidelines about ventilator allocation, Piscitello, et al. (2020) found that only 26 states provided guidance on how this allocation should occur, and their guidelines varied significantly.

The researchers say these findings suggest significant variation in U.S. state ventilator guidelines, which could cause inequity in allocation of mechanical ventilatory support during a public health emergency, such as the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

This systematic review evaluated publicly available guidelines about ventilator allocation for all states in the US and in the District of Columbia using department of health websites for each state and internet searches. Documents with any discussion of a process to triage mechanical ventilatory support during a public health emergency were screened for inclusion. Articles were excluded if they did not include specific ventilator allocation recommendations, were in draft status, did not include their state department of health, or were not the most up-to-date guideline. All documents were individually assessed and reassessed by two independent reviewers from March 30 to April 2 and May 8-10, 2020.

As of May 10, 2020, 26 states had publicly available ventilator guidelines, and 14 states had pediatric guidelines. Use of the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score in the initial rank of adult patients was recommended in 15 state guidelines (58%), and assessment of limited life expectancy from underlying conditions or co-morbidities was included in 6 state guidelines (23%). Priority was recommended for specific groups in the initial evaluation of patients in 6 states (23%) (i.e., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Utah). Many states recommended exclusion criteria in adult (11 of 26 states [42%]) and pediatric (10 of 14 states [71%]) ventilator allocation. Withdrawal of mechanical ventilation from a patient to give to another if a shortage occurs was discussed in 22 of 26 adult guidelines (85%) and 9 of 14 pediatric guidelines (64%).

The researchers concluded that guidelines among states, including adjacent states, varied significantly and could cause inequity in the allocation of mechanical ventilatory support during a public health emergency, such as the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Reference: Piscitello GM, et al. Variation in Ventilator Allocation Guidelines by US State During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic A Systematic Review. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(6):e2012606. June 19, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.12606

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