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Chest 2011 Linezolid Vs Glycopeptide MRSA Pneumonia .pdf

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Linezolid vs Glycopeptide Antibiotics for the
Treatment of Suspected Methicillin-Resistant
Staphylococcus aureus Nosocomial
Pneumonia : A Meta-analysis of Randomized
Controlled Trials
Allan J. Walkey, Max R. O'Donnell and Renda Soylemez Wiener
Chest 2011;139;1148-1155; Prepublished online September 23, 2010;
DOI 10.1378/chest.10-1556
The online version of this article, along with updated information and
services can be found online on the World Wide Web at:

Chest is the official journal of the American College of Chest
Physicians. It has been published monthly since 1935.
Copyright2011by the American College of Chest Physicians, 3300
Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062. All rights reserved. No part of
this article or PDF may be reproduced or distributed without the prior
written permission of the copyright holder.

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© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians


Original Research

Linezolid vs Glycopeptide Antibiotics for
the Treatment of Suspected MethicillinResistant Staphylococcus aureus
Nosocomial Pneumonia
A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Allan J. Walkey, MD; Max R. O’Donnell, MD, MPH; and Renda Soylemez Wiener, MD, MPH

Background: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an important cause of nosocomial pneumonia. Societal guidelines suggest linezolid may be the preferred treatment of MRSA
nosocomial pneumonia. We investigated the efficacy of linezolid compared with glycopeptide
antibiotics (vancomycin or teicoplanin) for nosocomial pneumonia.
Methods: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of English language, randomized, controlled trials comparing linezolid to glycopeptide antibiotics for suspected MRSA pneumonia in
subjects . 12 years of age. A highly sensitive search of PubMed MEDLINE and Cochrane
Central Register of Controlled Trials databases identified relevant studies.
Results: Eight trials encompassing 1,641 subjects met entry criteria. Linezolid was not superior to
glycopeptide antibiotics for end points of clinical success (relative risk [RR] linezolid vs glycopeptide, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.97-1.11; P 5 .28), microbiologic success (RR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.97-1.31; P 5 .12),
or mortality (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.69-1.18; P 5 .47). In addition, clinical success in the subgroup of
subjects with MRSA-positive respiratory tract culture (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.97-1.57; P 5 .09) was
not significantly different from those without MRSA (RR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.83-1.09; P 5 .48), P for
interaction, 0.07. The risk for adverse events was not different between the two antibiotic classes
(RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.86-1.07; P 5 .48).
Conclusion: Randomized controlled trials do not support superiority of linezolid over glycopeptide antibiotics for the treatment of nosocomial pneumonia. We recommend that decisions
between linezolid or glycopeptide antibiotics for empirical or MRSA-directed therapy of nosocomial pneumonia depend on local availability, antibiotic resistance patterns, preferred routes of
delivery, and cost, rather than presumed differences in efficacy. CHEST 2011; 139(5):1148–1155
Abbreviations: EOT 5 end of treatment; ITT 5 intention to treat; MIC 5 minimal inhibitory concentration;
MRSA 5 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; MSSA 5 methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus;
PVL 5 Panton-Valentine leukocidin; RR 5 relative risk; TOC 5 test of cure

ethicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
the most common pathogen associ-

ated with nosocomial pneumonia1,2 and is an increasing cause of severe community-acquired pneumonia.3,4
MRSA pneumonia is associated with increased morbidity and use of health-care resources compared
with methicillin-sensitive S aureus (MSSA) strains.5
Although glycopeptide antibiotics (eg, vancomycin
and teicoplanin) have long been the standard treatment of MRSA pneumonia, recent American Thoracic Society/Infectious Disease Society of America
guidelines have suggested that the oxazolidinone

antibiotic linezolid (Zyvox) may be preferred over
glycopeptides for MRSA pneumonia.6 This recommendation is based on a post hoc analysis of data
from a randomized controlled trial that demonstrated a survival advantage in the subgroup of subjects with documented MRSA nosocomial pneumonia treated with linezolid compared with those
treated with vancomycin.7 This retrospective analysis has been criticized on methodologic and statistical grounds.8-11
In light of this controversy, further investigation
of the comparative efficacy of linezolid is important,


Original Research

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especially given the approximately tenfold increase
in cost per dose12 and increased risk of thrombocytopenia13 for linezolid compared with vancomycin.
Two recent meta-analyses have demonstrated superior
efficacy for linezolid in the treatment of skin and soft
tissue infections.13,14 However, neither of these reviews
focused specifically on pneumonia, resulting in the
omission of relevant studies as well as important
pneumonia-specific mortality, adverse events, and
MRSA subgroup analyses. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate
the efficacy and adverse event profile of linezolid
compared with glycopeptide antibiotics in nosocomial
Materials and Methods
Data Sources
A “highly sensitive search method”15,16 was used to search
MEDLINE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled
Trials (CENTRAL). The highly sensitive search strategy is a previously validated search method, with a reported sensitivity of 98%
for method identifying relevant articles against a gold standard
database.16 The search was conducted November 11, 2009, with
the following terms designed to identify published randomized
controlled trials investigating linezolid: (“Randomized Controlled
Trial” [Publication Type] OR “Controlled Clinical Trial” [Publication Type] OR randomized [tiab] OR placebo [tiab] OR drug
therapy [sh] OR randomly [tiab] OR trial [tiab] OR groups [tiab])
AND “linezolid” [Substance Name]. In addition, we searched
published abstracts from major international conferences (CHEST
2003-2009, American Thoracic Society 2008-2009, and Infectious
Diseases Society of North America 2001, 2003-2006) and the registry to identify unpublished trials.
Study Selection
Two investigators (A. J. W. and M. R. O.) independently reviewed
results of the search to identify randomized controlled trials comparing linezolid to a glycopeptide antibiotic in subjects diagnosed
with pneumonia. Potentially eligible trials were excluded if they
were not written in English and study details were not available
Manuscript received June 15, 2010; revision accepted September
3, 2010.
Affiliations: From the Boston University School of Medicine
(Drs Walkey and Wiener), The Pulmonary Center, Boston, MA;
Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Dr O’Donnell), Division of
Pulmonary Medicine, Bronx, NY; the Center for Health Quality,
Outcomes, and Economic Research (Dr Wiener), Edith Nourse
Rogers Memorial VA Hospital, Bedford, MA; and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (Dr Wiener),
Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.
Funding/Support: Dr Wiener is supported by a career development award through the National Cancer Institute [K07 CA138772]
and by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Correspondence to: Allan J. Walkey, MD, Boston University
School of Medicine, The Pulmonary Center, 715 Albany St, R-304,
Boston, MA 02118; e-mail:
© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians. Reproduction
of this article is prohibited without written permission from the
American College of Chest Physicians (
DOI: 10.1378/chest.10-1556

from the abstract, did not assess clinical success as an end point,
studied strictly immunocompromised subjects, or enrolled only
subjects , 12 years of age.
Validity Assessment
All studies meeting entry criteria were included in this metaanalysis. Jadad scores,17 a simple instrument with high interrater
reliability used to assess randomized controlled trial quality, were
calculated for each study.
Data Abstraction
Data were abstracted independently in duplicate (A. J. W. and
M. R. O.). All corresponding authors of the included studies were
contacted via e-mail and asked to provide unpublished summary
data pertinent to the outcomes of interest. Specifically, we requested
unpublished summary data regarding outcomes (eg, test-of-cure
[TOC] and end-of-treatment [EOT] outcomes, adverse events)
and prespecified subject subgroups (eg, MRSA and non-MRSA
pneumonia) related to subjects with pneumonia.
The primary outcome assessed in this analysis was clinical success at the TOC study follow-up evaluation in clinically evaluable
subjects. This end point was chosen for its clinical relevance. Two
studies (Wilcox et al18 and Wunderink et al19) did not record
TOC results; results from the EOT outcome assessment were
analyzed for these studies. TOC visits ranged from 5 to 28 days
after antibiotic course completion in the studies included in this
analysis. Clinical success in these studies was defined as resolution
of clinical signs and symptoms of pneumonia compared with baseline. The intention-to-treat (ITT) population was defined as subjects who were randomized and received at least one dose of the
study medication; clinical success in the ITT population was analyzed as a secondary outcome. Other secondary outcomes included
clinical success at EOT in the clinically evaluable subjects, microbiologic success (sputum pathogen eradication), all-cause mortality during the study period in the ITT sample, and drug-related
adverse events (total adverse events, as well as thrombocytopenia
and acute renal failure) in the ITT sample.
A prespecified subgroup analysis was performed investigating
the primary outcome in subjects with culture-proven MRSA as
compared with non-MRSA pneumonia. Data regarding subjects
with non-MRSA pneumonia were unavailable from four studies
(Wilcox et al,18 Wunderink et al,19 Kohno et al,20 and Lin et al21)
but could be inferred from information given regarding total
subjects and subjects with MRSA pneumonia in three studies
(Rubinstein et al,22 Wunderink et al,23 and Stevens et al24) and
were supplied directly upon request in one study (Cepeda et al25).
Additional data were collected regarding study design, methods of blinding and randomization, study population, criteria for
diagnosis of pneumonia, criteria for assessment of treatment success, and antibiotic dosing, duration, and monitoring procedures.
Sensitivity analyses were also performed based on differences in
blinding (unblinded vs blinded) and type of glycopeptide comparator (vancomycin vs teicoplanin).
Statistical Analysis
In order to reach 90% power to demonstrate a relative 15%
difference between linezolid and vancomycin clinical success rates
(75% vs 65%), 450 subjects were necessary in each of the primary
analysis intervention groups. Pooled relative risks (RRs) and
95% CIs of outcome comparisons between glycopeptide antibiotics
and linezolid were calculated using the Mantel-Haenszel random
effects method. Random effects models were chosen for primary
statistical analysis due to their more conservative CIs and underlying
CHEST / 139 / 5 / MAY, 2011

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assumptions that allow for greater generalizability of the study
findings.26 As a sensitivity analysis, all models were also run using
fixed-effects methods, without any significant change in effect
estimates or statistical significance. All results reported herein are
from random-effects models. Heterogeneity was assessed with
x2 testing and I2 statistics. Interaction between subgroups
(eg, MRSA and MSSA pneumonia) was calculated using the method
of Bland and Altman.27 Visual inspection of funnel plots was used
to assess the potential for publication bias. Review Manager,
Version 5.0 (The Nordic Cochrane Centre, The Cochrane
Collaboration; Copenhagen, Denmark) was used for all statistical
analyses. An a level of 0.05 was selected for all analyses.

The flow diagram for selection of the relevant trials
of ITT subjects included in this analysis is shown in
Figure 1. One study (Cepeda et al25) supplied requested
data regarding unpublished pneumonia outcomes.
No additional data from unpublished abstracts were
Of 762 articles retrieved with the search strategy,
eight18-25 trials enrolling a total of 1,641 subjects met
entry criteria and were selected for this meta-analysis.
Table 1 summarizes the trial characteristics. All trials
were multicenter, and four of eight were doubleblind, with an average Jadad score of 3 6 0.93. Studies that received a Jadad score of 2 did so because
they were not double-blind and did not describe the
method of randomization.
All subjects were hospitalized; two studies included
only critically ill or mechanically ventilated patients.
Two studies investigated teicoplanin as the comparator medication; the remaining studied vancomycin.
In no study were vancomycin or teicoplanin drug
levels assessed as part of a study protocol. All studies
used linezolid doses of 600 mg IV every 12 h and

allowed use of concomitant antibiotics with gramnegative, but not MRSA, activity. The mean duration of therapy in the four studies reporting these
data were 10.5 6 1.18 days for linezolid and 9.96 6
1.13 days for glycopeptide (P 5 .56). The proportion
of the ITT subjects who had outcome assessments
was not different between the two treatments;
493/841 (58.6%) subjects who received linezolid and
476/800 (59.5%, P 5 .72) subjects who received a
glycopeptide antibiotic were evaluable for the primary
outcome of clinical success at TOC follow-up.
Our primary outcome of clinical success at TOC
was not different between the two antibiotic classes
(pooled RR of treatment success for linezolid compared with glycopeptide, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.97-1.11;
P 5 .28) (Fig 2A). This effect estimate was not
different for meta-analyses of the EOT end point
(1.04; 95% CI, 0.98-1.11) or the TOC end point
in entire ITT population (1.02; 95% CI, 0.93-1.12)
(Fig 2B). Sensitivity analyses of primary outcome
stratifying by allocation concealment type (doubleblinded RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.93-1.16; open-label
RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.95-1.13) or type of glycopeptide
comparator (vancomycin RR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.94-1.17;
teicoplanin RR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.95-1.13) also did not
result in outcome differences.
Clinical success for subjects with culture-confirmed
MRSA pneumonia was not different from those
without MRSA. The RR of clinical success for linezolid compared with glycopeptide in those with MRSA
(1.23; 95% CI, 0.97-1.57) (Fig 3A) was not different
from those without MRSA (0.95; 95% CI, 0.83-1.09;
P for interaction 0.07) (Fig 3B). Microbiologic eradication (Fig 4A), mortality (Fig 4B), and total adverse
events (Fig 4C) were also similar in linezolid and
glycopeptide groups.
Risk for thrombocytopenia was a nonstatistically
significant 2.97 times higher for linezolid (95% CI,
0.81-10.94; P 5 .10) in three studies reporting these
data. The risk of renal impairment was not significantly different comparing linezolid and glycopeptides (RR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.35-3.38; P 5 .89).
A funnel plot of effect size vs SE in the primary analysis of clinical success was used to evaluate for publication bias (Fig 5). This plot shows a slight imbalance
of effects toward linezolid.


Figure 1. Flowchart of process of study identification. HSS 5
highly sensitive search strategy; RCT 5 randomized controlled trial.

This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
comparing linezolid to glycopeptide antibiotics for
suspected MRSA nosocomial pneumonia does not
support the assertion that linezolid is a more efficacious antibiotic. Specifically, clinical and microbiologic outcomes in subjects randomized to linezolid


Original Research

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Table 1—Characteristics of Included Studies



et al22/2001
et al24/2002

Open label

et al23/2003
et al18/2004


Age . 18 y
Nosocomial pneumonia
Age . 13 y
Hospitalized, presumed
MRSA pneumonia,
cSSTI, UTI, bacteremia
Age . 18 y
Nosocomial pneumonia
Age . 13 y
Hospitalized, suspected
gram1 pneumonia,
bacteremia, cSSTI
Age . 16 y
Critically ill, suspected
gram1 pneumonia
or bacteremia
Age . 20 y
MRSA only, nosocomial
pneumonia and cSSTI
Age 18-75 y
Nosocomial pneumonia
and cSSTI
Age . 18 y
MRSA only, ventilatorassociated pneumonia;
BAL at 0, 72 h

Open label

et al25/2004

Two centers

et al20/2007

Open label

Lin et al21/2008

et al19/2008

Open label

ITT, No.

% ITT Subjects
Evaluable for Outcome

Jadad Study
Quality Score

1 g/12 h
1 g/12 h

L 203
V 193
L 50
V 49

L 53
V 47
L 78
V 65


1 g/12 h

L 321
V 302
L 57

L 53
V 58
L 93


Dosed per local
400 mg/12 h for
three doses then
400 mg/24 h IV
1 g/12 h

T 59

T 95

L 47
T 57

L 86
T 100


L 51
V 26

L 69
V 73


1 g/12 h

L 38
V 42

L 71
V 81


1 g/12 h

L 75
V 74

L 36
V 26





1 5 positive; cSSTI 5 complicated skin and soft tissue infection; ITT 5 intention to treat; L 5 linezolid; MRSA 5 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus
aureus; T 5 teicoplanin; UTI 5 urinary tract infection; V 5 vancomycin.

were not superior to subjects randomized to glycopeptides, regardless of the confirmed presence of
MRSA. In addition, adverse events were not significantly different between the two antibiotics.
These results are consistent with other meta-analyses
that have compared linezolid against glycopeptides
for the treatment of multiple sources of infection.13,14
Although complicated skin and soft tissue infections
have shown to have improved outcomes with linezolid,13,14 none of the prior meta-analyses observed
significant differences between linezolid and comparators for pneumonia outcomes. Similar to our results
for pneumonia, the prior meta-analyses that pooled
infectious source showed no difference in total adverse
events between treatments. However, Beibei et al14
found an increased odds of nephrotoxicity for vancomycin, and Falagas et al13 demonstrated increased
thrombocytopenia with linezolid. Neither of these
adverse events was reported with high incidence in
the in the patients with pneumonia included in our
meta-analysis. This may be because of the shorter
courses of antibiotics typically prescribed for pneumonia compared with other infections, such as MRSA
Reports suggesting linezolid as superior for MRSA
pneumonia7 hypothesize superior drug

tions in the lung as a potential mechanism of benefit.
This is supported by a study of lung epithelial lining
fluid levels after one dose of vancomycin in subjects
without pneumonia that showed levels below S aureus
minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) after 3 h in
many subjects.28 In contrast, evidence from studies of
humans29 and animals30 with pneumonia did not show
subtherapeutic lung concentrations of glycopeptides.
Additionally, Lamer et al29 demonstrated higher epithelial lining fluid concentrations of vancomycin with
increasing degrees of lung inflammation, which may
weaken the validity of drug penetration studies in
subjects without pneumonia. Last, when comparing two studies of subjects with nosocomial pneumonia, the proportion of subjects demonstrating trough
drug concentrations above the MRSA MIC cited in
each study was greater with vancomycin (79% . MIC
2.0 mg/mL)29 than linezolid (31% . MIC 4 mg/mL).31
Because no single study in humans has compared
pulmonary concentrations of these drugs in patients
with pneumonia, it is currently not known if subtherapeutic pulmonary drug levels are more common in
patients with pneumonia with glycopeptides compared with linezolid.
Other studies19 suggest that inhibition of protein
synthesis and bacterial toxin production, particularly
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Figure 2. Forest plots for clinical success outcomes. A, Clinical success at test-of-cure (TOC) follow-up in
clinically evaluable subjects. B, Clinical success at TOC follow-up in the intention-to-treat population.

the Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) toxin associated with necrotizing pneumonias,32,33 is the mechanism of putative superiority for linezolid. Importantly,
the studies included in our meta-analysis focused on
nosocomial MRSA pathogens, which are less likely to
produce the PVL toxin, as compared with emerging
community-acquired MRSA.34 Thus, our results showing no significant difference in efficacy between linezolid and glycopeptides in nosocomial pneumonia

should not be generalized to community-acquired
MRSA pneumonias or MRSA pneumonia with characteristics of a PVL toxin-producing strain (eg, necrosis, parapneumonic effusion).35
Multiple studies have investigated the costeffectiveness of linezolid for MRSA pneumonia,36-39
using pooled data from Rubinstein et al22 and
Wunderink et al.23 These studies conclude that,
despite linezolid costs approximately 10 times that

Figure 3. A, Forest plot for clinical success in subjects with culture-positive MRSA pneumonia.
B, Forest plot for clinical success in subjects without culture-positive MRSA pneumonia. aAlso includes
the data from Rubinstein et al 2001. MRSA 5 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Original Research

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Figure 4. A, Forest plot for mortality. B, Forest plot for microbiologic success. C, Forest plot for
adverse events.

of vancomycin, linezolid is cost-effective given the
assumption of improved outcomes. These analyses
should be reassessed given our findings of no significant
difference in clinical success or mortality between
these antibiotics.
Our findings argue against widespread routine use
of linezolid for suspected MRSA nosocomial pneu-

Figure 5. Funnel plot for analysis of clinical success at test-ofcure for all included studies. The x axis demonstrates the effect
estimate (RR) and the y axis demonstrates the log of the SE. The
vertical line demonstrates the pooled effect size and the open
squares represent effect estimates for each study plotted against
the study SE. RR 5 relative risk.

monia based on the presumption of superior efficacy.
Targeted use of linezolid may be of greater importance given the recent outbreak of linezolid-resistant
S aureus, directly correlating with linezolid use in a
Spanish ICU.40 This outbreak highlights the importance of thoughtful antibiotic stewardship, especially
given the paucity of effective treatments for MRSA
Our study has limitations. The proportion of
ITT subjects who were evaluated for clinical outcomes
was low across all studies. Whether certain characteristics of the study medications differentially affected
loss to follow-up is unknown; however, the proportion of subjects lost to follow-up was not different
between interventions. Although this study was adequately powered to detect differences in clinical success between the two antibiotics, it was not powered
for subgroup analysis or for detecting interaction
between MRSA and non-MRSA groups. Ongoing
randomized controlled trials (NCT00084266) comparing these antibiotics for MRSA ventilator-associated
pneumonia may provide further information regarding the comparative efficacy of these antibiotics. The
funnel plot used to investigate publication bias suggests the possibility of publication bias in favor of
linezolid. This weak suggestion is not supported by our
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review of unpublished abstract or clinical trial registry data. In addition, subgroup comparisons of MRSA
vs non-MRSA-related outcomes were not performed
in the studies in this meta-analysis; thus, it would be
difficult to argue for publication bias against null
findings in this subgroup. Importantly, this metaanalysis does not investigate the efficacy of linezolid as a treatment of community-acquired MRSA;
in vitro data, animal studies, and case reports suggest that linezolid may be of benefit for these toxinproducing strains.32-34,42,43
In conclusion, this meta-analysis does not show superiority of linezolid as compared with glycopeptide
antibiotics for the treatment of nosocomial pneumonia. We recommend that decisions between linezolid
or glycopeptide antibiotics for empirical or MRSAdirected therapy of nosocomial pneumonia depend
on local availability, antibiotic resistance patterns, preferred routes of delivery, and cost, rather than presumed difference in efficacy.







Author contributions: Dr Walkey had full access to the data and
takes responsibility for the accuracy of the data and analyses.
Dr Walkey: contributed to conception, design, data analysis and
interpretation, manuscript draft, and critical revision.
Dr O’Donnell: contributed to conception, design, data interpretation, and manuscript revision for critical intellectual content.
Dr Wiener contributed to conception, design, data interpretation,
manuscript revision for critical intellectual content, and supervision of the study.
Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported
to CHEST that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any
companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.
Role of sponsors: The funding organizations had no role in the
design and conduct of the study; in the collection, management,
analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation,
review, or approval of the manuscript. The views expressed herein
do not necessarily represent the views of the National Cancer
Institute, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the United States

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CHEST / 139 / 5 / MAY, 2011

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Linezolid vs Glycopeptide Antibiotics for the Treatment of Suspected
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Nosocomial Pneumonia :
A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Allan J. Walkey, Max R. O'Donnell and Renda Soylemez Wiener
Chest 2011;139; 1148-1155; Prepublished online September 23, 2010;
DOI 10.1378/chest.10-1556
This information is current as of December 10, 2011
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