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The prevalence and outcomes of trauma patients requiring an unplanned return to the intensive care unit (ICU) and those initially admitted to a step-down unit or floor and subsequently upgraded to the ICU, collectively termed unplanned ICU (UP-ICU) admission, are largely unknown.A retrospective review of the trauma registry of a suburban regional trauma center was conducted for adult patients who were admitted between 2007 and 2013, focusing on patients requiring ICU admission. Prehospital or emergency department intubations and patients undergoing surgery immediately after emergency room evaluation were excluded.Of 5411 admissions, there were 212 UP-ICU admissions, 541 planned ICU (PL-ICU) admissions, and 4658 that were never admitted to the ICU (NO-ICU). Of the 212 UP-ICU admits, 19.8% were unplanned readmissions to the ICU. Injury Severity Score was significantly different between PL-ICU (16), UP-ICU (13), and NO-ICU (9) admits. UP-ICU patients had significantly more often major (Abbreviated Injury Score ≥ 3) head/neck injury (46.7%) and abdominal injury (9.0%) than the NO-ICU group (22.5%, 3.4%), but significantly less often head/neck (59.5%) and abdominal injuries (17.9%) than PL-ICU patients. Major chest injury in the UP-ICU group (27.8%) occurred at a statistically comparable rate to PL-ICU group (31.6%) but more often than the NO-ICU group (14.7%). UP-ICU patients also significantly more often underwent major neurosurgical (10.4% vs 0.7%), thoracic (0.9% vs 0.1%), and abdominal surgery (8.5% vs 0.4%) than NO-ICU patients. Meanwhile, the PL-ICU group had statistically comparable rates of neurosurgical (6.8%) and thoracic surgical (0.9%) procedures but lower major abdominal surgery rate (2.0%) than the UP-ICU group. UP-ICU admission occurred at a median of 2 days following admission. UP-ICU median hospital LOS (15 days), need for mechanical ventilation (50.9%), and in-hospital mortality (18.4%) were significantly higher than those in the PL-ICU (9 days, 13.9%, 5.4%) and NO-ICU (5 days, 0%, 0.5%) groups.UP-ICU admission, although infrequent, was associated with significantly greater hospital length of stay, rate of major abdominal surgery, need for mechanical ventilation, and mortality rates than PL-ICU and NO-ICU admission groups.