Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 258-265

First online:

Physiotherapy does not prevent, or hasten recovery from, ventilator-associated pneumonia in patients with acquired brain injury

  • Shane PatmanAffiliated withSchool of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of TechnologyPhysiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, The University of Notre Dame Australia Email author 
  • , Sue JenkinsAffiliated withSchool of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of TechnologyPhysiotherapy Department, Lung Institute of Western Australia, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital
  • , Kathy StillerAffiliated withPhysiotherapy Department, Royal Adelaide Hospital

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To investigate the effect of respiratory physiotherapy on the prevention and treatment of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) for adults in an intensive care unit (ICU) with an acquired brain injury (ABI).

Design and setting

Two-part, prospective, randomised controlled trial.


A total of 144 subjects with ABI admitted with a Glasgow Coma Scale ≤9, requiring intracranial pressure monitoring, and invasive mechanical ventilation (MV) for >24 h; 33 subjects were subsequently diagnosed with VAP.


Respiratory physiotherapy comprised six treatments (positioning, manual hyperinflation and suctioning) in each 24-h period whilst on MV. The Control Group received standard medical/nursing care but no respiratory physiotherapy.

Measurements and results

There were no significant differences between groups for incidence of VAP, duration of MV, length of ICU stay or clinical variables such as requirement for re-ventilation.


In adults with ABI, regular respiratory physiotherapy in addition to routine medical/nursing care does not appear to prevent VAP, reduce length of MV or ICU stay. Due to small numbers, it is not possible to draw any conclusions as to whether or not respiratory physiotherapy hastens recovery from VAP.


Ventilator-associated pneumonia Acquired brain injury Physiotherapy