The association of ICU acuity with outcomes of patients at low risk of dying

Kelly C. Vranas, Jeffrey K. Jopling, Jennifer Y. Scott, Omar Badawi, Michael O. Harhay, Christopher G. Slatore, Meghan C. Ramsey, Michael J. Breslow, Arnold S. Milstein, Meeta Prasad Kerlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Many ICU patients do not require critical care interventions. Whether aggressive care environments increase risks to low-acuity patients is unknown. We evaluated whether ICU acuity was associated with outcomes of low mortality-risk patients. We hypothesized that admission to high-acuity ICUs would be associated with worse outcomes. This hypothesis was based on two possibilities: 1) high-acuity ICUs may have a culture of aggressive therapy that could lead to potentially avoidable complications and 2) high-acuity ICUs may focus attention toward the many sicker patients and away from the fewer low-risk patients. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: Three hundred twenty-two ICUs in 199 hospitals in the Philips eICU database between 2010 and 2015. Patients: Adult ICU patients at low risk of dying, defined as an Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation-IVa-predicted mortality of 3% or less. Exposure: ICU acuity, defined as the mean Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation IVa score of all admitted patients in a calendar year, stratified into quartiles. Measurements and Main Results: We used generalized estimating equations to test whether ICU acuity is independently associated with a primary outcome of ICU length of stay and secondary outcomes of hospital length of stay, hospital mortality, and discharge destination. The study included 381,997 low-risk patients. Mean ICU and hospital length of stay were 1.8 ± 2.1 and 5.2 ± 5.0 days, respectively. Mean Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation IVa-predicted hospital mortality was 1.6% ± 0.8%; actual hospital mortality was 0.7%. In adjusted analyses, admission to low-acuity ICUs was associated with worse outcomes compared with higher-acuity ICUs. Specifically, compared with the highest-acuity quartile, ICU length of stay in low-acuity ICUs was increased by 0.24 days; in medium-acuity ICUs by 0.16 days; and in high-acuity ICUs by 0.09 days (all p < 0.001). Similar patterns existed for hospital length of stay. Patients in lower-acuity ICUs had significantly higher hospital mortality (odds ratio, 1.28 [95% CI, 1.10-1.49] for low-; 1.24 [95% CI, 1.07-1.42] for medium-, and 1.14 [95% CI, 0.99-1.31] for high-acuity ICUs) and lower likelihood of discharge home (odds ratio, 0.86 [95% CI, 0.82-0.90] for low-, 0.88 [95% CI, 0.85-0.92] for medium-, and 0.95 [95% CI, 0.92-0.99] for high-acuity ICUs). Conclusions: Admission to high-acuity ICUs is associated with better outcomes among low mortality-risk patients. Future research should aim to understand factors that confer benefit to patients with different risk profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-353
Number of pages7
JournalCritical care medicine
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Acute physiology and chronic health evaluation
  • Critical care
  • Intensive care units
  • Patient acuity
  • Resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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