Specialized 24/7 care improves cardiac outcomes in the ICU

Staffing intensive care units with intensivist senior physicians around-the-clock may reduce mortality rates among cardiac surgical patients, suggests research published in the journal Critical Care Medicine.

For the study, researchers examined the care outcomes of more than 3,000 patients treated at the University of Alberta Hospital and Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Canada. Half of the patients received care between 2006 and 2013. The other half were treated over a 17-month period in 2013 and 2014 after the resident night physician was replaced with dedicated in-house intensivist physicians.

Researchers found patients treated by around-the-clock intensivists had a 7 percent lower risk of experiencing major complications and a nearly 4 percent lower chance of being readmitted to the ICU.

"There have previously been large studies [examining this issue in general ICU units], and they have not found any benefit to taking residents away or adding staff physicians," said Marc Benoit, MD, a fellow in cardiology at the University of Alberta and one of the study's authors. "When looking at this issue of nighttime staffing, we need to consider the patient population. So maybe it's not beneficial to keep senior physicians in-house in every single ICU, but it might be in some more complex units."

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