Efficacy of early prone position for COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia: a single-center prospective cohort study

Dear Editor,

With the global epidemic of COVID-19, as of July 8, 2020, 12,025,348 people have been infected with 4.56% mortality [1]. Many COVID-19 patients died due to severe hypoxia [2, 3]. It is particularly important to find a simple and effective way for COVID-19 patients’ treatment. Recent studies reported that prone position was used to treat non-intubated COVID-19 patients and hypoxemic acute respiratory failure [4, 5]. However, the number of patients was small, the follow-up was short, clinical outcomes were not assessed in their study. In this study, we aimed to explore whether the early prone position can effectively improve severe hypoxia, CT imaging performance and survival prognosis of COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia.

A total of 60 COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia were enrolled from February 1, 2020 to April 30, 2020 (Fig. S1, Tables S1 and S2) (Chinese Clinical Trial Registry: ChiCTR2000033053). And 23 patients were taken early prone position and 37 patients were not. In prone position group, the pulse oxygen saturation (SpO2) increased from 91.09 ± 1.54% to 95.30 ± 1.72% (P < 0.01) after 10 min, 95.48 ± 1.73% after 30 min (P < 0.01), but no significant difference after 30 min compared with 10 min (P = 0.58) (Fig. 1a). The respiratory rate (RR) decreased from 28.22 ± 3.06 times/min to 27.78 ± 2.75 times/min after 10 min (P = 0.20), 24.87 ± 1.84 times/min after 30 min (P < 0.01), but no significant difference after 10 min compared with the baseline value (P = 0.203) (Fig. 1b). ROX index increased from 3.35 ± 0.46 after 10 min to 3.55 ± 0.47 (P < 0.01), 3.96 ± 0.45 after 30 min (P < 0.01) (Fig. 1c). However, there was no significant difference in SpO2, RR and ROX index in a non-prone position group (Fig. 1d–i). Additionally, there is significant difference in SpO2-10 min, ROX-10 min, SpO2-30 min, RR-30 min and ROX index-30 min between the two groups (P < 0.01) (Table S3). Furthermore, the early prone position can also improve the CT imaging performance in some patients (Fig. 1j). After 90 days of follow-up, 10 (43.5%) COVID-19 patients died in the prone position group, compared with 28 (75.7%) COVID-19 patients in the non-prone position group (Fig. 1k). As for the potential mechanism of early prone position improving the hypoxia, we speculate that it may be caused by redistribution of blood flow and edema fluid redistributes to the ventral side with gravity and the atrophic alveolar are reopened in the prone position, which cause V/Q improvement.

Fig. 1
figure1

Early prone position significantly improves SpO2, RR, ROX index, CT imaging performance and reduce the mortality of COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia. ac The single SpO2 (a), RR (b), and ROX index (c) change in the prone position group. df The single SpO2 (d), RR (e), and ROX index (f) change in the non-prone position group. gi The average SpO2 (g), average RR (h), and average ROX index (i) change between prone position and non-prone position groups. j In patient 1, CT imaging showed that the density and scope of diffuse patch shadow in both lungs was significantly improved after 1-day prone position. In patient 2, CT imaging showed that the patch shadow was completely absorbed after 5-day prone position. k Survival curve of COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia between prone position group and non-prone position group

There are also some limitations in our study: (1) Limited to the conditions at that time, some COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia between two groups cannot be managed by the same researcher. (2) Limited to COVID-19 outbreak, blood gas determining respiratory failure cannot be analyzed in time. (3) The number of COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia enrolled in this study is also limited.

In conclusion, this work will have value in helping clinicians to use early prone position to treat COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia, it may reduce the mortality of COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia, and help guide appropriate and effective management for future patients.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the COVID-19 Early Prone Position Study Group members for their efforts: Weidong Zhang, Institute of Interdisciplinary Integrative Medicine Research, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China. Quansheng Gao, Department of Operational Medicine Tianjin Institute of Environmental & Operational Medicine, Tianjin, China. Jiang Xie, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Anzhen Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Chunguo Jiang, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Xinmin Ding, Jie Zhang, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Shijitan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Feiping Lu, Wei Chen, Jie Zhen, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Shijitan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Ping He, Meng’en Zhu, Department of Geriatrics, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China. Xiaomeng Zhang, Department of Otolaryngologic Surgery, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China. Xiaodong Yuan, Department of Infectious Disease, Beijing Shijitan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Rong Tian, Department of Respiratory, Beijing Geriatric Hospital, Beijing, China. Xiaohui Wang, Department of Infectious Diseases, Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, School of Clinical Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Nan Zhang, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Chest Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China. Jun Guo, Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, School of Clinical Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Xuelei Zang, Center of Clinical Laboratory Medicine, the first Medical Centre, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China. Xidong Ma, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care, the first Medical Centre, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China. Zhiqiang Xue, Department of Chest surgery, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, China.

Funding

National Natural Science Fund Youth Project (81700007); National Natural Science Foundation of China (81772798, 62041602); Research and innovation fund of the Ministry of Education (2018A03026); Beijing Natural Science Foundation (2019A10); “Qingmiao” plan of Beijing Municipal Hospital Administration (2018QM4); Outstanding top talent (2019YXBJ1); Capital health development scientific research unit matching fund (2020-2Z-2086). The National Key Research and Development Program of China (2020YFC0845400 & 2017YFC1700200); Excellent talents in Beijing “Youth top team” (2019YXBJ2); Capital health development scientific research unit matching fund (2020-2Z-2086).

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XZ, QW, HZ, SL, and XX conceptualized the article. XZ, QW, and XX analyzed the data. XZ, QW, HZ, SL, and XX wrote the initial draft. HZ, SL, and XX are the guarantors.

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Correspondence to Hua Zhou or Sanhong Liu or Xinying Xue.

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The members of the COVID-19 Early Prone Position Study Group are listed in the Acknowledgements.

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Zang, X., Wang, Q., Zhou, H. et al. Efficacy of early prone position for COVID-19 patients with severe hypoxia: a single-center prospective cohort study. Intensive Care Med 46, 1927–1929 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-06182-4

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