Postoperative Complications and Outcomes Associated With a Transition to 24/7 Intensivist Management of Cardiac Surgery Patients

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Nighttime intensivist staffing does not improve patient outcomes in general ICUs. Few studies have examined the association between dedicated in-house 24/7 intensivist coverage on outcomes in specialized cardiac surgical ICUs. We sought to evaluate the association between 24/7 in-house intensivist-only management of cardiac surgical patients on postoperative complications and health resource utilization.


Before-and-after propensity matched cohort study.


Tertiary care cardiac surgical ICU.


Patients greater than 18 years old who underwent cardiac surgery between January 1, 2006, and April 30, 2013 (nighttime resident model), were propensity-matched (1:1) to patients from August 1, 2013, to December 31, 2014 (24/7 in-house intensivist model).


Cardiac surgical ICU coverage change from a nighttime resident physician coverage model to a 24/7 in-house intensivist staffing model.

Measurements and Main Results:

The primary outcome of interest was a composite of postoperative major complications. Secondary outcomes included duration of mechanical ventilation, all-cause cardiac surgical ICU readmissions, and surgical postponements attributed to lack of cardiac surgical ICU bed availability. A total of 1,509 patients during the nighttime resident model were matched to 1,509 patients during the intensivist model. The adjusted risk of major complications (26.3% vs 19.3%; odds ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.36–0.85; p < 0.01), mean mechanical ventilation time (25.2 vs 19.4 hr; p < 0.01), cardiac surgical ICU readmissions (5.3% vs 1.6%; odds ratio, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.19–0.48; p < 0.01), and surgical postponements (3.4 vs 0.3 per mo; p < 0.01) were lower with the intensivist model.


A transition to a 24/7 in-house intensivist care model was associated with a reduction in postoperative major complications, duration of mechanical ventilation, cardiac surgical ICU readmissions, and surgical postponements. These findings suggest that 24/7 intensivist physician care models may improve patient outcomes and health resource utilization in specialized cardiac surgical ICUs.

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