Evolution of Respiratory Muscles Thickness in Mechanically Ventilated Patients With COVID-19

Mark E Haaksma, Jasper M Smit, Ruben Kramer, Micah L A Heldeweg, Lars I Veldhuis, Arthur Lieveld, Dagnery Pikerie, Amne Mousa, Armand R J Girbes, Leo Heunks, Pieter R Tuinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Given the long ventilation times of patients with COVID-19 that can cause atrophy and contractile weakness of respiratory muscle fibers, assessment of changes at the bedside would be interesting. As such, the aim of this study was to determine the evolution of respiratory muscle thickness assessed by ultrasound.

METHODS: Adult (> 18 y old) patients admitted to the ICU who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were ventilated for < 24 h were consecutively included. The first ultrasound examination (diaphragm, rectus abdominis, and lateral abdominal wall muscles) was performed within 24 h of intubation and regarded as baseline measurement. After that, each following day an additional examination was performed, for a maximum of 8 examinations per subject.

RESULTS: In total, 30 subjects were included, of which 11 showed ≥ 10% decrease in diaphragm thickness from baseline; 10 showed < 10% change, and 9 showed ≥ 10% increase from baseline. Symptom duration before intubation was highest in the decrease group (12 [11-14] d, P = .03). Total time ventilated within the first week was lowest in the increase group (156 [129-172] h, P = .03). Average initial diaphragm thickness was 1.4 (1.1-1.6) mm and did not differ from final average thickness (1.3 [1.1-1.5] mm, P = .54). The rectus abdominis did not show statistically significant changes, whereas lateral abdominal wall thickness decreased from 14 [10-16] mm at baseline to 11 [9-13] mm on the last day of mechanical ventilation ( P = .08). Mixed-effect linear regression demonstrated an association of atrophy and neuromuscular-blocking agent (NMBA) use ( P = .01).

CONCLUSIONS: In ventilated subjects with COVID-19, overall no change in diaphragm thickness was observed. Subjects with decreased or unchanged thickness had a longer ventilation time than those with increased thickness. NMBA use was associated with decreased thickness. Rectus muscle thickness did not change over time, whereas lateral abdominal muscle thickness decreased but this change was not statistically significant.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRespiratory Care
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2022

Cite this