Inspiratory muscle training in intensive care unit patients: An international cross-sectional survey of physiotherapist practice

Published:September 08, 2021DOI:



      Inspiratory muscle training is safe and effective in reversing inspiratory muscle weakness and improving outcomes in patients who have experienced prolonged mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU). The degree of worldwide implementation of inspiratory muscle training in such patients has not been investigated.


      The objectives of this study were to describe the current practice of inspiratory muscle training by intensive care physiotherapists and investigate barriers to implementation in the intensive care context and additionally to determine if any factors are associated with the use of inspiratory muscle training in patients in the ICU and identify preferred methods of future education.


      Online cross-sectional surveys of intensive care physiotherapists were conducted using voluntary sampling. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with inspiratory muscle training use in patients in the ICU.


      Of 360 participants, 63% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 58 to 68) reported using inspiratory muscle training in patients in the ICU, with 69% (95% CI = 63 to 75) using a threshold device. Only 64% (95% CI = 58 to 70) of participants who used inspiratory muscle training routinely assessed inspiratory muscle strength. The most common barriers to implementing inspiratory muscle training sessions in eligible patients were sedation and delirium. Participants were 4.8 times more likely to use inspiratory muscle training in patients if they did not consider equipment a barrier and were 4.1 times more likely to use inspiratory muscle training if they aware of the evidence for this training in these patients. For education about inspiratory muscle training, 41% of participants preferred online training modules.


      In this first study to describe international practice by intensive care therapists, 63% reported using inspiratory muscle training. Improving access to equipment and enhancing knowledge of inspiratory muscle training techniques could improve the translation of evidence into practice.


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