Physicians switch to end-of-life care in full ICU

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

March 21, 2012

Researchers at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, found that physicians switch from life-saving care to end-of-life care when beds are not available in the intensive care unit (ICU).

A study of data from nearly 3,500 patients revealed that 21% of patients were admitted to the ICU within two hours when some beds were available, but that number dropped to only 12% of patients admitted when no beds were available. Additionally, physicians moved from resuscitation to comfort care in 15%of cases in which the ICU was full, up from 9% of instances when three or more beds were available.

Although death rates at the hospital remained the same regardless of whether the ICU was full, the study may lead to more in-depth research regarding the availability of ICU beds and the effects of a full ICU on patients in need, according to physicians who reviewed the study.

Source: Chicago Tribune