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Healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP) is a common complication in patients with severe tetanus. Nursing tetanus patients in a semi-recumbent body position could reduce the incidence of HCAP. In a randomised controlled trial we compared the occurrence of HCAP in patients with severe tetanus nursed in a semi-recumbent (30°) or supine position. A total of 229 adults and children (aged ≥1 year) with severe tetanus admitted to hospital in Vietnam, were randomly assigned to a supine (n=112) or semi-recumbent (n=117) position. For patients maintaining their assigned positions and in hospital for>48h there was no significant difference between the two groups in the frequency of clinically suspected pneumonia [22/106 (20.8%) vs 26/104 (25.0%); p=0.464], pneumonia rate/1000 intensive care unit days (13.9 vs 14.6; p=0.48) and pneumonia rate/1000 ventilated days (39.2 vs 38.1; p=0.72). Mortality in the supine patients was 11/112 (9.8%) compared with 17/117 (14.5%) in the semi-recumbent patients (p=0.277). The overall complication rate [57/112 (50.9%) vs 76/117 (65.0%); p=0.03] and need for tracheostomy [51/112 (45.5%) vs 69/117 (58.9%); p=0.04) was greater in semi-recumbent patients. Semi-recumbent body positioning did not prevent the occurrence of HCAP in severe tetanus patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg

Publication Date





90 - 97


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Child, Child, Preschool, Cross Infection, Female, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Intensive Care Units, Male, Middle Aged, Patient Positioning, Pneumonia, Respiration, Artificial, Tetanus, Tracheostomy, Treatment Failure, Vietnam, Young Adult