IntroductionAutomated weaning systems may improve adaptation of mechanical support for a patient’s ventilatory needs and facilitate systematic and early recognition of their ability to breathe spontaneously and the potential for discontinuation of ventilation. Our objective was to compare mechanical ventilator weaning duration for critically ill adults and children when managed with automated systems versus non-automated strategies. Secondary objectives were to determine differences in duration of ventilation, intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital length of stay (LOS), mortality, and adverse events.MethodsElectronic databases were searched to 30 September 2013 without language restrictions. We also searched conference proceedings; trial registration websites; and article reference lists. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias. We combined data using random-effects modelling.ResultsWe identified 21 eligible trials totalling 1,676 participants. Pooled data from 16 trials indicated that automated systems reduced the geometric mean weaning duration by 30% (95% confidence interval (CI) 13% to 45%), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 87%, P <0.00001). Reduced weaning duration was found with mixed or medical ICU populations (42%, 95% CI 10% to 63%) and Smartcare/PS™ (28%, 95% CI 7% to 49%) but not with surgical populations or using other systems. Automated systems reduced ventilation duration with no heterogeneity (10%, 95% CI 3% to 16%) and ICU LOS (8%, 95% CI 0% to 15%). There was no strong evidence of effect on mortality, hospital LOS, reintubation, self-extubation and non-invasive ventilation following extubation. Automated systems reduced prolonged mechanical ventilation and tracheostomy. Overall quality of evidence was high.ConclusionsAutomated systems may reduce weaning and ventilation duration and ICU stay. Due to substantial trial heterogeneity an adequately powered, high quality, multi-centre randomized controlled trial is needed.