Medical intensive care unit consults occurring within 48 hours of admission: A prospective study☆,☆☆,★

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Critical care consults requested shortly after admission could represent a triage error. This consult process has not been adequately assessed, and data are retrospective relying on discharge diagnoses.


The aims of this study were to identify reasons for medical Intensive care unit (MICU) consultations within 48 hours of admission and to detect differences between those accepted and those denied MICU admission.


Data were prospectively collected including demographics, reason for consultation, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score, Elixhauser comorbidity measure, functional status, need for assisted ventilation or vasopressor, presence of do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, and whether a DNR order was obtained after MICU consultation.


Ninety-four percent of patients consulted were not initially evaluated in the emergency department, half of whom were accepted. Respiratory failure, sepsis, and alcohol withdrawal were the most frequent reasons for MICU transfers. Factors predicting MICU admission included respiratory illness, better baseline functional status, and less comorbidity, whereas DNR predicted rejection. We did not find differences in hospital mortality; but hospital length of stay was longer.


Prospective examination of the consult process suggests that disease progression rather than triage error accounted for most unplanned transfers. Functional status and comorbidity predicted MICU admission rather than illness severity. Goals of care were not being discussed adequately. We did not detect differences in mortality although hospital length of stay was increased.

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