SedAting With Volatile Anesthetics Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients in ICU: Effects On Ventilatory Parameters And Survival (SAVE-ICU)


Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Status and phase

Phase 3


Hypoxic Respiratory Failure


Drug: Sevoflurane inhalant product
Drug: Isoflurane Inhalant Product

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


Patients suffering lung failure, possibly from COVID-19 or hypoxic lung failure, will need life-saving support from a breathing machine. Any patient needing this support requires drugs to keep them sleepy, or "sedated" to be comfortable on this machine. Sedation is made possible by using drugs given through a vein. Unfortunately, these drugs are in short supply worldwide due to the high number of COVID-19 patients needing these machines. Another way to provide sleep is by using gases that are breathed in. These are used every day in operating rooms to perform surgery. These gases, also called "inhaled agents" can also be used in intensive care units and may have several important benefits for patients and the hospital. Research shows they may reduce swelling in the lung and increase oxygen levels, which allows patients to recover faster and reduce the time spent on a breathing machine. In turn, this allows the breathing machine to be used again for the next sick patient. These drugs may also increase the number of patients who live through their illness. Inhaled agents are widely available and their use could dramatically lesson the pressure on limited drug supplies. This research is a study being carried out in a number of hospitals that will compare how well patients recover from these illnesses depending on which type of sedation drug they receive. The plan is to evaluate the number who survive, their time spent on a breathing machine and time in the hospital. This study may show immediate benefits and may provide a cost effective and practical solution to the current challenges caring for patients and the hospital space, equipment and drugs to the greatest benefit. Furthermore, the study will be investigating inflammatory profile and neuro-cognitive profiles in ventilated patients. Finally, this trial will be a team of experts in sedation drugs who care for patients with proven or suspected COVID-19 who need lifesaving treatments.

Full description

Multicentre open-label, pragmatic, randomized controlled trial and a parallel prospective (non-randomized) cohort study conducted in ICUs and ICU enabled environments caring in critically ill COVID-19 and non-COVID hypoxic respiratory failure patients. Participants will be mechanically ventilated and will be variably randomized, within 72 hours of start of sedation treatment, in a 1:1 ratio to either an intravenous or inhaled volatile-based sedation arm depending on availability of sedative drugs for both arms. Stratification will be done by: Age ≥ 65 years participating centre PaO2/FiO2 ratio of 150 Patients who cannot be randomized (due to technical or resource issues in some areas of the hospital) will be entered into the parallel prospective (non-randomized) cohort study and will receive intravenous or inhaled sedation as able in their designated unit. Sedation will be administered according to standard sedation practice and in keeping with current guidelines. Participants will be followed: daily in ICU until 30 days after enrollment, ICU discharge or death, whichever occurs first; at 30 days after last dose of drug administration by telephone or through the hospital healthcare database; at 60 days, 90 days, and 365 days after enrollment by telephone and/or through data linkages with a provincial or hospital or state healthcare database; Participants will have the option to participate in the neuro-cognitive and / or biomarker assessments


758 estimated patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  1. ≥ 18 years of age
  2. Mechanically ventilated and expected to remain mechanically ventilated at the end of the next day
  3. Receiving IV sedation by infusion or bolus for ≤72 hours to facilitate mechanical ventilation Transferred patients with escalating ventilation needs are eligible for recruitment within ≤72 hours of sedation commenced within the participating trial site that they were transferred to.

Note: Intravenous sedation required to support mechanical ventilation includes use of one or more of the following agents: benzodiazepines, propofol, ketamine, barbiturates, alpha-2 agonist, opioids. Patients receiving intravenous opioids only i.e., fentanyl ≥ 50mcg/hour, hydromorphone ≥ 0.4mg/hour (or bolus q1h) for analgesia and sedation or agitation to assist mechanical ventilation are eligible for inclusion.

  1. a) Proven or suspected (under investigation) COVID-19, or b) COVID-19 negative patients who have a PaO2FiO2 ratio ≤300 measured with arterial blood gas at least once during the 12 hours prior to enrollment.

Exclusion criteria

  1. Contraindications to sedatives, such as propofol infusion syndrome or malignant hyperthermia;
  2. Known allergy to any of the ingredients or components of the investigational products; sevoflurane or isoflurane;
  3. Suspect or evidence of high intracranial pressure;
  4. Severe brain injury that is likely to lead to sustained very low conscious levels or vegetative state
  5. Severe neuromuscular disorder for example amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Gullian Barre Syndrome that are the primary cause of needing ICU admission and mechanical ventilation
  6. One-lung ventilation or pneumonectomy;
  7. Ideal estimated tidal volume too low for delivery of inhaled agents. Target (6ml/kg) < 200ml;
  8. Use of inhaled prostacyclin which is contraindicated in the presence of a miniature vaporizer (i.e., Anesthesia Conserving Device). This agent has a high viscosity that leads to poor vaporization of the volatile agent. Note: Other inhaled pulmonary vasodilators such as nitric oxide can be safely administered in the presence of miniature vaporizers. Use of prostacyclin is permissible with an anesthesia machine and MADM;
  9. Known pregnancy
  10. Moribund patient not expected to survive >12 hours

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

758 participants in 3 patient groups

Inhaled - volatile anesthetic
Experimental group
The ICU patient will be randomized to either Isoflurane or Sevoflurane, whichever is available at the hospital. Dosage will be modified as per health care team guidance for the best treatment of the participant.
Drug: Isoflurane Inhalant Product
Drug: Sevoflurane inhalant product
Standard Care
No Intervention group
The ICU patient will be randomized to standard of care, which is any IV sedation supplied by the hospital. Dosage will be modified as per health care team guidance for the best treatment of the participant.
No Intervention group
In this arm, ICU patients who cannot be randomized will receive inhaled or IV sedation as per available in their unit. This is done to try to obtain the maximum amount of information available from the patients present to our ICUs.

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Iman Hussain; Angela Jerath, MD

Data sourced from

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