Missed opportunities in use of medical emergency teams prior to in-hospital cardiac arrest

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Abstract

Background

Hospitals often employ Medical Emergency Teams (METs) to respond to patients with acute physiological decline so as to prevent deaths from in-hospital cardiac arrest (IHCA). We determined the frequency of missed opportunities for MET evaluation, defined as no MET evaluation prior to IHCA despite evidence of severe vital sign abnormalities ≥1 hour preceding cardiac arrest.

Methods

Within Get With The Guidelines–Resuscitation, we identified 21,913 patients from 274 hospitals with IHCA on general inpatient or telemetry floors who would be eligible for a MET evaluation prior to IHCA. We determined the proportion of patients with missed opportunities for MET evaluation, defined as no MET evaluation before IHCA despite at least 1 severe vital sign abnormality (pulse >150 or <30, respiratory rate >35 or <8, systolic blood pressure <80, and oxygen saturation <80%) 1, 2, and 4 hours before IHCA. The relationship between a hospital's proportion of missed opportunities for MET evaluation and its risk-standardized rate of survival to discharge for IHCA (derived using hierarchical linear regression models) was then evaluated.

Results

Overall, few (3,814 [17.4%]) patients with IHCA had a preceding MET evaluation, and the odds of a MET evaluation varied by >80% across hospitals (median, 14.6% [interquartile range, 9.1%-22.2%]; median odds ratio, 1.82). Vital sign data were available for 13,115 (72.5%) of the 18,099 patients without MET evaluation. Of these patients, 5,243 (40.0%), 4,078 (31.1%), and 1,767 (13.4%) had at least 1 severe vital sign abnormality ≥1, 2, and 4 hours before IHCA, respectively. Hospitals with the highest proportion of unevaluated patients despite severe vital sign abnormalities 2 and 4 hours preceding cardiac arrest had the lowest IHCA survival rate (correlation of −0.14 [P = .04] and −0.16 [P = .01], respectively).

Conclusions

Although METs are designed to prevent IHCA, many patients with severe vital sign abnormalities prior to IHCA did not have a MET evaluation, and hospitals with higher rates of unevaluated patients had lower IHCA survival. These findings suggest missed opportunities to efficiently use METs in current practice.

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