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Risk factors for early-onset ventilator-associated pneumonia in aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage patients.


Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a life-threatening condition with increasing prevalence over the years (1). In most cases, mechanical ventilation (MV) and intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalization are mandatory. SAH patients frequently present with nosocomial infections and pneumonia, which might affect recovery (2). Recently, a few studies have reported on ventilator-acquired pneumonia (VAP) in SAH patients.

Among ICU patients, VAP remains a major cause of infection (3). Several studies have reported VAP in specific populations, such as head trauma patients (4-6). In that population, a VAP prevalence of up to 40% was found, with involvement of specific pathogens (5,7). VAP can result in substantial morbidity and high health-care costs, but a rather low mortality in head trauma patients (4,7). Most episodes of VAP in trauma patients occur in the first 7 days (5,7). Previous studies have pointed out specific risk factors, including the use of barbiturates (7-9), continuous sedation (10), intra-cranial hypertension (5), or delayed enteral feeding (7). In the present study, we aimed to determine the risk factors and pathogens involved in the early-onset VAP in SAH patients in China.

Patients and Methods


From January 2011 to December 2015, we conducted a retrospective single-center study in the ICU of our hospital. Patients hospitalized for an aneurysmal SAH and requiring MV [greater than or equal to] 48 h were included in the study. Exclusion criteria were: 1) patients with an intra-cerebral hemorrhage from another origin, including arterio-venous malformation, non-aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, or non-traumatic intra-cerebral hemorrhage; 2) patients who were transferred to another center after aneurysmal coiling and could not fulfill follow-up for the primary endpoint; 3) patients who died in the first 2 days of ICU hospitalization. Written informed consent was obtained from all patients and the study was performed in accordance with the Ethics Committee approval of Weifang People's Hospital.

Management of SAH patients

Computed tomography (CT) brain scan was used for aneurysmal SAH diagnosis. The aneurysm was confirmed during an arteriography with an endovascular coiling in the first 24 h. The choice of the treatment modality (coil or clip method) was made when a consensus was reached about the disease between the neurosurgeon and neuroradiologist. Patients with a Glasgow coma scale (GCS) score p8 were sedated with a continuous intravenous infusion of fentanyl (2-5 [micro]g x [kg.sup.-1] x [h.sup.-1]) or sufentanil (0.2-0.5 mg x [kg.sup.-1] x [h.sup-1]) and midazolam (0.2-0.5 mg x [kg.sup.-1] x [h.sup.-1]) according to the guidelines (11). Cerebral perfusion pressure was maintained [greater than or equal to] 60 mmHg by using norepinephrine. Intra-cranial hypertension was defined as an intracranial pressure (ICP) [greater than or equal to] 25 mmHg and treated by a bolus of mannitol (0.5 g/kg) (11). When plasmatic osmolarity was p 320 mOsm/kg, mannitol was applied. Hypertonic saline was not employed during the study period. When ICP remained elevated after osmotherapy, barbiturates were injected (sodium thiopental), with an intravenous (iv) bolus of 2-3 mg/kg, followed by a continuous infusion of 2-3 mg x [kg.sup.-1] x [h.sup-1] (12). Nimodipine (1-2 mg/h, iv) was administrated at ICU admission. As soon as the enteral feeding started, nimodipine was administered via enteral feeding tube (360 mg/day) during 21 days (1). Screening of vasospasm was performed once a day in the middle cerebral artery by Transcranial Doppler (TCD). An arteriography was performed whenever the mean artery flow velocity assessed by TCD was 50% higher than that on the first day, or above 120 cm/s (13). Besides, arteriography was also performed when an unexplained fever or a new neurologic deficit appeared. The diagnosis of vasospasm was given during arteriography by an experienced neuro-radiologist. Before starting enteral nutrition, a chest X-ray was used to confirm location of the tip of the feeding tube in the stomach. Patients were fed continuously with a peristaltic feeding pump. No written enteral nutrition protocol was available in our ICU during the period of study and nutrition procedures were left to the attending physician's discretion. Achieving an enteral nutrition threshold of 20 kcal x [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1] was deemed to be appropriate for our research needs according to the consensus (14). Due to the lack of specific recommendations for ICU population, protocoled weaning from MV was not available during the period of study. Weaning started as soon as ICP control was deemed appropriate. Sedative and morphinomimetic agents were progressively removed when ICP was controlled. Criteria and recommendations in the most recent guidelines for extubation (15) were not available during the period of study and was left to the attending physician. In spite of evidence favoring early tracheostomy (16), this procedure was performed only in patients with a prolonged MV (X15 days) (16).

Primary outcome

According to the criteria of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) (3), VAP was defined as the presence of a new or progressive pulmonary infiltrate on the chest radiography and two of the following items: hyperthermia (X38[degrees]C) or hypothermia (p36[degrees]C), leukocytosis (x12,000/mL) or leukopenia (p4000/mL), and purulent pulmonary secretions. Patients suspected of having pneumonia underwent either endotracheal aspirates or fiberoptic bronchoscopy to obtain samples by means of protected specimen brush or bronchoalveolar lavage. The diagnosis was upheld if more than 103, 104, or 106 colony forming units (CFU)/mL were found on protected specimen brush, bronchoalveolar lavage, and endotracheal aspirates, respectively. Pneumonia was considered ventilator-associated when onset occurred after tracheal intubation. Early-onset of VAP (EOVAP) was defined as VAP occurring in the first 7 days after orotracheal intubation (5). VAP occurring after the 7th day was defined as late-onset VAP (5). All episodes of suspected VAP were prospectively evaluated during a weekly staff meeting with attending neurointensivists, infectious disease specialists, microbiologists, and hygiene specialists. Diagnosis was upheld according to the ATS criteria (3).

Data collection

Gender, age, Simplified Acute Physiology Score II (SAPS II), medical history, GCS score on scene, World Federation of Neurosurgeons score (WFNS), Fisher score, aneurysm location, surgery upon admission, ventriculostomy realization, type of aneurysm, clip or coiling, and antibioprophylaxis were prospectively recorded. Stress-ulcer prophylaxis, barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin therapy, length of sedation, and nutrition data were also noted during the ICU stay. ICU length of stay (LOS), mortality rate at the time of ICU discharge, and duration of sedation and of MV were calculated.

Statistical analysis

All statistical analyses were performed in SPSS 18.0 (SPSS Inc., USA). Continuous data are reported as medians and percentiles (25-75%) or means [+ or -] SD, and categorical data as numbers and percentage. The w2 or Fisher's exact test was employed for qualitative variables, and Student's t-test or the Wilcoxon non-parametric test was used for quantitative variables. Potential risk factors were determined by multivariate logistic regression model and backward selection. The final model is presented with crude odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). P < 0.05 was considered statistically significance.


Patient demographic data

A total of 200 patients who met the criteria were included. The age range of the patients was 41-63 and 72 (36%) were male. The GCS score range was 5-15 and the SAPS II range was 31-52. One hundred and forty-eight (74%) patients had a WFNS XIII and 146 (73%) had a Fisher score of 4. One hundred and twenty-eight (64%) patients were treated with ventriculostomy. Aneurysm was secured with an endovascular coiling procedure in 168 (90%) patients. Fifty (25.0%) patients received 2 g of cefazolin during a ventriculostomy procedure (antibiotic prophylaxis), and antibiotics were systematically discontinued after surgery. One hundred and ninety (95%) patients received stress ulcer prophylaxis. Forty-eight (24%) patients received antacids and 142 (71%) patients received sucralfate. Ninety-eight (47%) patients presented a VAP, 80 (40%) of which were EOVAP. Among the 80 patients with EOVAP, 14 (17.5%) patients displayed criteria of acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome. Forty-one (20.5%) patients died in the ICU during the study period. The median duration of sedation was 11 (6-15) days, the median duration of MV was 19 (11-29) days, and the median ICU LOS was 23 (1534) days. Twenty-eight (14.0%) patients underwent a late tracheostomy in order to wean MV, performed during a median of 28 (22-32) days.

Univariate analysis of the risk factors related to EOVAP

According to the univariate analysis, male gender, seizures before intubation, use of mannitol, and enteral feeding above 20 kcal x [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1] before day 7 showed significant difference between patients with or without EOVAP (Table 1).

Multivariate analysis of the risk factors related to EOVAP

The risk factors included into the multivariate analysis were male gender, active smoking, seizures before intubation, ventriculostomy, use of mannitol, and enteral feeding above 20 kcal x [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1] after day 7. As shown in Table 2, male gender (OR=2.25, 95%CI=1.15-4.45), use of mannitol (OR=3.02, 95%CI=1.53-5.94) and enteral feeding above 20 kcal x [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1] (OR=2.90, 95%CI=1.26-6.67) before day 7 were independent factors for EOVAP.

Pathogens analysis of the early- and late-onset VAP in SAH patients

Bacterial culture retrieved a single bacterium in 73 EOVAP and multiple microorganisms in seven. As shown in Table 3, the main pathogen involved was methicillin susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) (35%). Other pathogens were Haemophilus influenzae (28%), Streptococcus pneumoniae (15%), and Enterobacteriaceae (11%). MSSA (57.1%) and Enterobacteriaceae (42.9%) were the main pathogens in 14 late-onset VAP.

Events in the ICU

Patients with EOVAP had a longer duration of sedation (P=0.03), MV (P=0.001), and ICU LOS (P=0.003) and a lower GOS score (Po 0.001). Death rate was 23.8% in patients with EOVAP and 18.3% in patients without EOVAP (Table 4).


In the present study, 94 (47%) patients presented with VAP, which was comparable to a previous study (17). The results from multivariate analysis showed that male gender, use of mannitol, and delayed enteral nutrition were confirmed as the independent risk factors for EOVAP, while MSSA was found as the main pathogen of EOVAP.

According to previous reports, the incidence of VAP in the ICU was about 40% (5,7) when the patient presented with traumatic brain injury (18). The incidence of VAP in SAH patients was rather high in the current study, which was comparable to that in head-trauma patients, indicating a higher susceptibility to nosocomial pneumonia in brain-injury patients. Previous studies have shown that brain injuries could induce a state of nosocomial infections-associated immune paralysis (19). Recently, Frontera et al. (2) found a lower incidence of nosocomial pneumonia (20%). MV was considered highly associated with nosocomial pneumonia, suggesting that it is of critical importance in patients with SAH requiring MV. In head trauma patients (4,5,7), EOVAP was associated with increasing length of MV and ICU LOS, but the mortality rate was not high in SAH patients.

Moreover, we found that enteral nutrition was independently associated with EOVAP. In a previous study, enteral nutrition was reported to play an important role in nosocomial infections, especially VAP in head trauma patients (7,20). However, enteral feeding was limited due to the risk of micro-inhalation. Poulard et al. (21) reported that early initiation (< 48 h) associated with a rapid increase in the enteral nutrition intake was not correlated with VAP in a general ICU population. Furthermore, Reignier et al. (22) recently showed that residual gastric monitoring was not mandatory to prevent VAP but led to less enteral intake in patients. These results suggested that early nutrition, without residual gastric monitoring, could be safely performed in brain-injured patients. In accordance with previous consensus on enteral nutrition in the ICU, we upheld the threshold of 20 kcal x [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1] within the period < 7 days (14). Our results suggested an association but not a causation between low enteral nutrition intake and early-onset VAP. In brain-injured patients, an evidence-based extubation readiness bundle including early enteral nutrition was safe and decreased the length of MV (23).

We also found that use of mannitol was independently associated with VAP. Several studies have found that barbiturate was considered a risk factor for immunosuppression and VAP in brain-injured patients (5,7,9). To date, no authors have reported mannitol as a risk factor for VAP, but some immunomodulatory effects of osmotherapy have been described with hypertonic saline solution in the setting of experimental hemorrhagic shock. Some authors found a decrease of TNF production and polymorphonuclear neutrophils activation with mannitol (24). On the other hand, other investigators have found a decrease of pro-inflammatory cytokines and T lymphocytes proliferation in the setting of hemorrhagic shock (24). Intra-cranial hypertension exhibited some immunosuppressive functions that might increase the susceptibility to pneumonia in the setting of brain-injured immune dysfunction (19,25). In all studies focusing on brain-injured patients, barbiturates and mannitol were used to reduce intra-cranial hypertension (12). Barbiturate coma and mannitol were administered to most patients who displayed an immune impairment in the presence of VAP (18). It must be kept in mind that mannitol is probably a confounding factor and it is hard to delineate the exact role of mannitol versus elevated ICP on the genesis of VAP.

In addition, we found that male gender was associated with an increased risk of VAP. Few experimental data have pointed out some protective effects of estrogen after hemorrhage and, notably, phagocytosis capacity on Kupffer cells (26). To date, no hormonal therapy is available in the ICU to avoid nosocomial infections, but this could be considered as a potential target in the future.

Pathogens involved in EOVAP were MSSA, Haemophilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. MSSA is also the main pathogen in head-trauma patients with VAP (5,7). This pathogen remains highly specific for VAP in brain--injured patients and is not found with such a high prevalence in medical patients (17,27,28). Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae are also frequently retrieved among head trauma patients (5,7). Based on the risks of multidrug-resistant bacteria, the cutoff of early- and late-onset VAP has been set at day 5 after the initiation of MV by the last conference consensus (3). However, in head-trauma patients, Bronchard et al. (5). found that pathogens remained susceptible to most of the antibiotics recommended by the ATS guidelines in the first 7 days after the initiation of MV. Therefore, we chose this cut-off, as we hypothesized that pathogens involved in VAP in patients with SAH would be similar to those in head-trauma patients. In the setting of late-onset VAP, MSSA was still retrieved along with Enterobacteriaceae. These results suggested that early-onset VAP flora in patients with SAH was similar to that in patients with head trauma and the 7-days cut-off determining the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens may be used in patients with SAH. However, this question was not completely answered by our study. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.

There are several limitations in this study. First, a single center retrospective study may result in bias in the multivariate analysis results. Second, incomplete information could fail to determine the effect of VAP on the neurological outcome or mortality of the patients. Third, a short-term infusion of antibiotics could reduce the rate of VAP. Finally, the Clinical Pulmonary Infection Score was not determined, which could result in controversies on VAP diagnosis.

VAP is frequently present in SAH patients requiring MV. We found that male gender, use of mannitol, and delayed enteral nutrition were confirmed as independent risk factors for EOVAP, while MSSA was found as the main pathogen for EOVAP. According to previous studies (7), enteral nutrition strategy is recommended for SAH patients in general surgical ICU patients (20) and for brain-injured patients (23).


This work was financially supported by the Weifang Science and Technology Bureau (No. 2016RKX031).


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J.B. Cui, Q.Q. Chen, T.T. Liu and S.J. Li

Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit, Weifang People's Hospital, Weifang, China

Correspondence: Shengjun Li: <>

Received September 23, 2017 | Accepted December 6, 2017
Table 1. Risk factors analysis for early-onset ventilator-acquired
pneumonia (EOVAP) in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid
hemorrhage (SAH).

                                            Patients without
                                              EOVAP (n=120)

Characteristics SAPS II                      41 [+ or -] 14
Age                                          53 [+ or -] 13
Gender (male)                                    36 (30)
GCS score                                     9 [+ or -] 4
WFNS [greater than or equal to] III             88 (59.4)
Active smoking                                  17 (14.2)
Seizures before intubation                      29 (24.2)
Aneurysmal coiling                             104 (86.6)
Ventriculostomy                                 77 (64.2)
Antibioprophylaxis                              27 (22.5)
Angiographic vasospasm before day 7             11 (9.2)
Enteral nimodipine                              40 (33.3)
Insulin therapy                                 92 (76.7)
Stress ulcer prophylaxis                        114 (95)
Use of mannitol                                 32 (26.7)
Corticosteroids                                   6(5)
Barbiturates use (days)                       3 [+ or -] 2
Achievement of enteral feeding                  71 (59.2)
  [greater than or equal to] 20 kcal x
  [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1]
before day 7

                                              Patients with
                                               EOVAP (n=80)

Characteristics SAPS II                      42 [+ or -] 13
Age                                          54 [+ or -] 13
Gender (male)                                    36 (45)
GCS score                                     9 [+ or -] 5
WFNS [greater than or equal to] III              60 (75)
Active smoking                                   20 (25)
Seizures before intubation                      30 (37.5)
Aneurysmal coiling                               64 (80)
Ventriculostomy                                  44 (55)
Antibioprophylaxis                              23 (28.8)
Angiographic vasospasm before day 7              12 (15)
Enteral nimodipine                              29 (36.3)
Insulin therapy                                 62(77.5)
Stress ulcer prophylaxis                        76 (95.0)
Use of mannitol                                 42 (52.5)
Corticosteroids                                   4 (5)
Barbiturates use (days)                       4 [+ or -] 3
Achievement of enteral feeding                   64 (80)
  [greater than or equal to] 20 kcal x
  [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1]
before day 7

                                            P value

Characteristics SAPS II                       0.82
Age                                           0.76
Gender (male)                                 0.04
GCS score                                     0.66
WFNS [greater than or equal to] III           0.79
Active smoking                                0.08
Seizures before intubation                    0.04
Aneurysmal coiling                            0.29
Ventriculostomy                               0.19
Antibioprophylaxis                            0.32
Angiographic vasospasm before day 7           0.21
Enteral nimodipine                            0.78
Insulin therapy                               0.89
Stress ulcer prophylaxis                      0.74
Use of mannitol                              0.0003
Corticosteroids                               0.74
Barbiturates use (days)                       0.47
Achievement of enteral feeding               0.003
  [greater than or equal to] 20 kcal x
  [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1]
before day 7

Data are reported as means [+ or -] SD or number and percentage.
SAPS: Simplified Acute Physiology Score; GCS: Glasgow coma scale;
WFNS: World Federation of Neurosurgeons score. The [chi square] or
Fisher's exact test was employed for qualitative variables, and
Student's t-test or the Wilcoxon non-parametric test was used for
quantitative variables.

Table 2. Multivariate analysis of the risk factors for early-onset
of ventilator-acquired pneumonia.

Variables                                OR      95%CI        P value

Gender (male)                            2.25    1.15-4.45    0.01
Use of mannitol                          3.02    1.53-5.94    0.001
Achievement of enteral feeding X         2.90    1.26-6.67    0.01
  [greater than or equal to] 20 kcal
  [kg.sup.-1] x [day.sup.-1]
before day 7

OR: odds ratio; CI: confidence interval.

Table 3. Pathogens analysis of the early- and late-onset
ventilator-acquired pneumonia (VAP) in aneurismal subarachnoid
hemorrhage patients.

                                       Pathogens involved in VAP
                                    Early-onset      Late-onset (n=14)

Total                                  100 (100)           14 (100)
Methicillin-susceptible                 35 (35)            8 (57.1)
  Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA)
Haemophilus influenzae                  28 (28)               --
Streptococcus pneumoniae                15 (15)               --
Enterobacteriaceae                      11 (11)            6 (42.9)
Other pathogens                         11 (11)               --

Data are reported as number and percentage.

Table 4. Events in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Characteristics in ICU                  Patients with
                                          VAP (n=80)

Median sedation duration (days)           14 (8-16)
Median duration of mechanical             22 (16-34)
  ventilation (days)
Median ICU LOS (days)                     27 (17-38)
GOS score                                 3.3 (1-4)
Death                                     19 (23.8)

Characteristics in ICU                 Patients without    P value
                                         VAP (n=120)

Median sedation duration (days)            9 (5-15)          0.03
Median duration of mechanical             17 (10-23)        0.001
  ventilation (days)
Median ICU LOS (days)                     21 (13-31)        0.003
GOS score                                 3.9 (1-5)         0.001
Death                                     22 (18.3)          0.35

Data are reported as medians and percentiles (25-75%). VAP:
ventilator-acquired pneumonia; LOS: length of stay; GOS: Glasgow
outcome scale. Student's t-test or the Wilcoxon non-parametric test
was used for statistical analyses.
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Title Annotation:Research Article
Author:Cui, J.B.; Chen, Q.Q.; Liu, T.T.; Li, S.J.
Publication:Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
Article Type:Report
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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