Clinical question: Does ICU strain negatively affect the outcomes of patients transferred to the floor?
Background: With healthcare costs increasing and critical care staff shortages projected, ICUs will have to operate under increasing strain. This may influence decisions on discharging patients from ICUs and could affect patient outcomes.
Study design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: One hundred fifty-five ICUs in the United States.
Synopsis: Using the Project IMPACT database, 200,730 adult patients from 107 different hospitals were evaluated in times of ICU strain, determined by the current census, new admissions, and acuity level. Outcomes measured were initial ICU length of stay (LOS), readmission within 72 hours, in-hospital mortality rates, and post-ICU discharge LOS.
Increases of the strain variables from the fifth to the 95th percentiles resulted in a 6.3-hour reduction in ICU LOS, a 2.0-hour decrease in post-ICU discharge LOS, and a 1.0% increase in probability of ICU readmission within 72 hours. Mortality rates during the hospital stay and odds of being discharged home showed no significant change. This study was limited because the ICUs participating were not randomly chosen, outcomes of patients transferred to other hospitals were not measured, and no post-hospital data was collected, so no long-term outcomes could be measured.
Bottom line: ICU bed pressures prompt physicians to allocate ICU resources more efficiently without changing short-term patient outcomes.
Citation: Wagner J, Gabler NB, Ratcliffe SJ, Brown SE, Strom BL, Halpern SD. Outcomes among patients discharged from busy intensive care units. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(7):447-455.