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In Germany there is considerable variability in the organizational forms of intensive-care medicine. We present economical data that arose during the reorganization of an intensive care unit with the implementation of the continuous presence of a trained intensivist. The unit was changed from an intensive-observational unit managed by four surgical departments without continuous presence of a trained intensivist to an interdisciplinary surgical intensive care unit managed by the Department of Anaesthesia in co-operation with the surgical departments with the continuous presence of trained intensivists.Measurement of costs for personnel, medical equipment and external services, revenues, length of hospital stay and complications of cardiac surgical patients.Per year costs for personnel increased by approximately €240 000, while expenses for medical equipment were reduced by €245 000. In all, 466 hospital days were saved by the reduction in the length of hospital stay, providing capacity for 22 additional cardiac surgical cases. In addition, the presence of trained intensivists made it possible to provide care for more severely ill patients, which gained approximately 100 additional case-mix points and increased the hospital's revenues by more than €300 000. Emergency readmission to the intensive care unit was reduced by 17%. The number of patients requiring renal replacement therapy and those developing non-occlusive mesenteric ischaemia was substantially reduced.In addition to the medical advantages, staffing the intensive care unit with trained intensivists 24 h a day was of appreciable economical benefit.