Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BackgroundSevere acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the strain of coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can cause serious illness in some people resulting in admission to intensive care units (ICU) and frequently, ventilatory support for acute respiratory failure. Evaluating ICU care, and what is effective in improving outcomes for these patients is critical. Care bundles, a small set of evidence-based interventions, delivered together consistently, may improve patient outcomes. To identify the extent of the available evidence on the use of care bundles in patients with COVID-19 in the ICU, the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a scoping review to inform WHO guideline discussions. This review does not assess the effectiveness of the findings, assess risk of bias, or assess the certainty of the evidence (GRADE). As this review was commissioned to inform guideline discussions, it was done rapidly over a three-week period from 26 October to 18 November 2020.ObjectivesTo identify and describe the available evidence on the use of care bundles in the ICU for patients with COVID-19 or related conditions (acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) viral pneumonia or pneumonitis), or both. In carrying out the review the focus was on characterising the evidence base and not evaluating the effectiveness or safety of the care bundles or their component parts.Search methodsWe searched MEDLINE, Embase, the Cochrane Library (CENTRAL and the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform on 26 October 2020.Selection criteriaStudies of all designs that reported on patients who are critically ill with COVID-19, ARDS, viral pneumonia or pneumonitis, in the ICU setting, where a care bundle was implemented in providing care, were eligible for inclusion. One review author (VS) screened all records on title and abstract. A second review author (DR) checked 20% of excluded and included records; agreement was 99.4% and 100% respectively on exclude/include decisions. Two review authors (VS and DR) independently screened all records at full-text level. VS and DR resolved any disagreements through discussion and consensus, or referral to a third review author (AN) as required.Data collection and analysisOne review author (VS) extracted the data and a second review author (DR) checked 20% of this for accuracy. As the review was not designed to synthesise effectiveness data, assess risk of bias, or characterise the certainty of the evidence (GRADE), we mapped the extracted data and presented them in tabular format based on the patient condition; that is patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, patients with ARDS, patients with any influenza or viral pneumonia, patients with severe respiratory failure, and patients with mixed conditions. We have also provided a narrative summary of the findings from the included studies.Main resultsWe included 21 studies and identified three ongoing studies. The studies were of variable designs and included a systematic review of standardised approaches to caring for critically ill patients in ICU, including but not exclusive to care bundles (1 study), a randomised trial (1 study), prospective and retrospective cohort studies (4 studies), before and after studies (7 studies), observational quality improvement reports (4 studies), case series/case reports (3 studies) and audit (1 study). The studies were conducted in eight countries, most commonly China (5 studies) and the USA (4 studies), were published between 1999 and 2020, and involved over 2000 participants in total. Studies categorised participant conditions patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (7 studies), patients with ARDS (7 studies), patients with another influenza or viral pneumonia (5 studies), patients with severe respiratory failure (1 study), and patients with mixed conditions (1 study). The care bundles described in the studies involved multiple diverse practices. Guidance on ventilator settings (10 studies), restrictive fluid management (8 studies), sedation (7 studies) and prone positioning (7 studies) were identified most frequently, while only one study mentioned chest X-ray. None of the included studies reported the prespecified outcomes ICU-acquired weakness (muscle wasting, weight loss) and users' experience adapting care bundles. Of the remaining prespecified outcomes, 14 studies reported death in ICU, nine reported days of ventilation (or ventilator-free days), nine reported length of stay in ICU in days, five reported death in hospital, three reported length of stay in hospital in days, and three reported adherence to the bundle.Authors' conclusionsThis scoping review has identified 21 studies on care bundle use in critically ill patients in ICU with COVID-19, ARDS, viral influenza or pneumonia and severe respiratory failure. The data for patients with COVID-19 specifically are limited, derived mainly from observational quality improvement or clinical experiential accounts. Research is required, urgently, to further assess care bundle use and optimal components of these bundles in this patient cohort. The care bundles described were also varied, with guidance on ventilator settings described in 10 care bundles, while chest X-ray was part mentioned in one care bundle in one study only. None of the studies identified in this scoping review measured users' experience of adapting care bundles. Optimising care bundle implementation requires that the components of the care bundle are collectively and consistently applied. Data on challenges, barriers and facilitators to implementation are needed. A formal synthesis of the outcome data presented in this review and a critical appraisal of the evidence is required by a subsequent effectiveness review. This subsequent review should further explore effect estimates across the included studies.

Original publication





The Cochrane database of systematic reviews

Publication Date





School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


Humans, Pneumonia, Viral, Respiratory Insufficiency, Treatment Outcome, Critical Care, Intensive Care Units, Influenza, Human, Pandemics, Patient Care Bundles, Respiratory Distress Syndrome, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2