SHM Converge

Pulmonary and critical care session highlights new advances and research


An overview of five important advances in pulmonary and critical care medicine are on the agenda for the “Update in Pulmonary and Critical Care” session on Tuesday, May 4, at the virtual 2021 SHM Converge conference.

“I hope this session gives attendees a nice, broad look at advances both in the intensive care unit and in general pulmonary medicine,” said James Walter, MD, of Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, who serves as director of the session.

On the critical care medicine side, Dr. Walter will review the latest research on the efficacy of ascorbic acid in treating patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. “There was a lot of excitement and some skepticism about early results promising a really large treatment effect in giving critically ill patients with sepsis large doses of vitamin C,” Dr. Walter said. The last year has produced some high-quality randomized trials that have contributed to a better understanding of the potential effects ascorbic acid in sepsis can have, he noted.

Dr. Walter, who is also medical director of the Northwestern Lung Rescue Program, intends to discuss what he believes is a definitive trial regarding the benefit of preemptively starting critically ill patients with acute kidney injury on renal replacement therapy instead of waiting until there are specific clinical signs. “This has been another area of uncertainty in critical care and I think we finally have a very definitive answer with this high quality, randomized, controlled trial that I plan to review,” he said.

Though he said there have been a number of important advances in pulmonary medicine over the past year, Dr. Walter will highlight just two.

Up until recently, the antifibrotics nintedanib and pirfenidone have mostly been used in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. However, recent research suggests there may be a potential benefit to using these drugs in patients with fibrotic lung disease outside of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. “I think this is an important advance for hospital medicine providers to be aware of,” said Dr. Walter.

He will also go over some large randomized controlled trials of the use of triple therapy – a combination of a long-acting beta agonist (LABA), a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA), and an inhaled corticosteroid in one inhaler – in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The trials looked at whether triple inhaler therapy was beneficial compared to the typical therapies used for COPD.

The session wouldn’t be complete without a nod to COVID-19, which Dr. Walter said has significantly changed the landscape for hospital medicine providers. He plans to discuss what he considers the most impactful study – the RECOVERY trial. This study looked at the role of dexamethasone in patients with more severe manifestations of SARS-CoV-2.

“From the incredible amount of data that’s come out in the last year about COVID, I think this is probably the trial that’s changed practice the most and shown the largest therapeutic benefit of all the pharmacotherapies,” Dr. Walter said. “It’s an important one for providers to be aware of in terms of what the trial shows and how it informs which patients are most likely to benefit from dexamethasone therapy.”

Dr. Walter hopes clinicians who participate in the session will leave with these takeaways:

  • Be able to summarize recent trials of ascorbic acid in sepsis and think about how to incorporate – or not – the use of vitamin C in critically ill sepsis patients.
  • A thorough understanding of when renal replacement therapy should be offered to critically ill patients with acute kidney dysfunction.
  • Be able to discuss the impact of antifibrotic therapy in interstitial lung diseases outside of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • An understanding of the role of triple inhaler combinations in COPD.
  • Be able to explain when dexamethasone is most likely to benefit hypoxemic patients with COVID-19.

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