Economic impact of prolonged motor weakness complicating neuromuscular blockade in the intensive care unit

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ObjectiveWe compared a case-series of ten patients who developed prolonged neuromuscular weakness after continuous, nondepolarizing, neuromuscular blockade with a group of controls without neuromuscular weakness to determine the economic impact of the neuromuscular weakness.DesignFrequency-matched case control trial.SettingMedical and surgical intensive care units of a 937-bed tertiary care, university-affiliated teaching hospital.PatientsTen patients developed prolonged neuromuscular weakness after continuous administration of nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers. Ten patients from a 1994 drug utilization database who did not develop motor weakness after paralysis were identified to serve as controls.Measurements and Main ResultsThe medical and accounting records of the patients were retrospectively reviewed. Charge data were obtained from patient accounts. Institutional ratios to convert charges to full costs and marginal costs were obtained from the Hospital Finance Department of Henry Ford Hospital. The economic impact of the diagnosis and recovery of the motor weakness was estimated for the intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital stays and compared with those values for control patients. Median hospital charges (excluding rehabilitation), totaling $91,476, were attributed to the patients who developed neuromuscular weakness and included charges for neuromuscular blocking agents, continuous mechanical ventilation, ICU and hospital beds, neurologic studies, and physical therapy services. In the control patients, median charges were $22,191 (p = .001). The total median cost differential for a patient in the neuromuscular weakness group was in excess of $66,713 (95% confidence interval $23,485 to $189,214, p = .001). Significant differences were also found for patient charges, full costs, and marginal costs for mechanical ventilation (p = .002), neurologic studies (p = .014), as well as ICU (p = .002) and hospital (p = .001) stays.ConclusionsThe development of motor weakness was associated with an increase in ICU and hospital stays, continued mechanical ventilation, and disproportionate healthcare expenditures in excess of $66,000 per patient. A prospective evaluation of the true prevalence of neuromuscular weakness after neuromuscular blockade and of the costs to the healthcare system is needed.(Crit Care Med 1996; 24:1749-1756)

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