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Airway care interventions may prevent accumulation of airway secretions and promote their evacuation, but evidence is scarce. Interventions include heated humidification, nebulization of mucolytics and/or bronchodilators, manual hyperinflation and use of mechanical insufflation-exsufflation (MI-E). Our aim is to identify current airway care practices for invasively ventilated patients in intensive care units (ICU) in the Netherlands. A self-administered web-based survey was sent to a single pre-appointed representative of all ICUs in the Netherlands. Response rate was 85% (72 ICUs). We found substantial heterogeneity in the intensity and combinations of airway care interventions used. Most (81%) ICUs reported using heated humidification as a routine prophylactic intervention. All (100%) responding ICUs used nebulized mucolytics and/or bronchodilators; however, only 43% ICUs reported nebulization as a routine prophylactic intervention. Most (81%) ICUs used manual hyperinflation, although only initiated with a clinical indication like difficult oxygenation. Few (22%) ICUs used MI-E for invasively ventilated patients. Use was always based on the indication of insufficient cough strength or as a continuation of home use. In the Netherlands, use of routine prophylactic airway care interventions is common despite evidence of no benefit. There is an urgent need for evidence of the benefit of these interventions to inform evidence-based guidelines.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of clinical medicine

Publication Date





Center of Expertise Urban Vitality, Faculty of Health, Amsterdam University of Applied Science, 1105 BD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.