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Mechanical Ventilator Liberation of Patients With COVID-19 in Long-term Acute Care Hospital



Mechanical ventilation (MV) via tracheostomy is performed commonly for patients who are in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACHs) after respiratory failure. However, the outcome of MV in COVID-19-associated respiratory failure in LTACHs is not known.

Research question

What is the ventilator liberation rate of patients who have received tracheostomy with COVID-19-associated respiratory failure compared with those with respiratory failure unrelated to COVID-19 in LTACHs?

Study design and methods

In this retrospective cohort study, we examined mechanically ventilated patients discharged between June 2020 and March 2021. Of 242 discharges, 165 patients who had undergone tracheostomy arrived and were considered for ventilator liberation. One hundred twenty-eight patients did not have COVID-19 and 37 patients were admitted for COVID-19.


The primary outcome of the study was ventilator liberation; secondary outcomes were functional recovery, length of stay (LOS) at the LTACH, and discharge disposition. After controlling for demographics, the number of comorbidities, hemodialysis, vasopressor need, thrombocytopenia, and the LOS at the short-term acute care hospital, our results indicated that patients with COVID-19 showed a higher adjusted ventilator liberation rate of 91.4% vs 56.0% in those without COVID-19. Functional ability was assessed with the change of Functional Status Score for the Intensive Care Unit (FSS-ICU) between admission and discharge. The adjusted mean change in FSS-ICU was significantly higher in the COVID-19 group than in the non-COVID-19 group: 9.49 (95% CI, 7.38-11.6) vs 2.08 (95% CI, 1.05-3.11), respectively (P < .001). Patients with COVID-19 experienced a shorter adjusted LOS at the LTACH with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.57 (95% CI, 1.0-2.46; P = .05) compared with patients without COVID-19. We did not observe significant differences between the two groups regarding discharge location, but a trend toward need for lower level of care was found in patients with COVID-19.


Our study suggests that patients with COVID-19 requiring MV and tracheostomy have a higher chance for recovery than those without COVID-19.

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