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To assess long-term survival, health-related quality of life, and associated costs 5 yrs after discharge from a medical intensive care unit.Prospective cohort study.Medical intensive care unit of a German university hospital.Three hundred and three consecutive patients with predominantly cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders admitted between November 1997 and February 1998 with an intensive care unit length of stay >24 hrs.None.Demographic data, Simplified Acute Physiology Score II, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment, simplified Therapeutic Intervention Scoring System, and individual intensive care unit and hospital costs were prospectively recorded. Primary outcomes included 5-yr survival, functional status, health-related quality of life (Medical Outcome Short Form, SF-36), effective costs per survivor, and costs per life year and per quality-adjusted life year gained.Of 303 patients, 44 (14.5%) died in the hospital. Among the remaining 259 patients, 190 (73%) survived the 5-yr follow up and 173 patients (91%) completed the questionnaire. Baseline demographics including gender, age, Simplified Acute Physiology Score II, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment, simplified Therapeutic Intervention Scoring System, and admission diagnosis were similar between hospital and long-term survivors (p > .05 for all). The health status index of those patients surviving the 5-yr follow-up was 0.88, independent of patients’ severity of illness. The average effective costs per survivor were 8.827 € for intensive care unit costs and 14.130 € for intensive care unit and hospital costs. Mean costs per life year and per quality-adjusted life year gained amounted to 19.330 € and 21.922 €, respectively. Increasing severity of illness was associated with higher costs.Considering the severity of illness and the patients’ outcome, the costs associated with both life year and quality-adjusted life year gained were within generally accepted limits for other potentially life-saving treatments.