, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 1676-1682

A nationwide survey of intensive care unit discharge practices

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Abstract

Objective

To describe intensive care unit (ICU) discharge practices, examine factors associated with physicians’ discharge decisions, and explore ICU and hospital characteristics and clinical determinants associated with the discharge process.

Design

Survey in adult ICUs affiliated with the Swiss Society of Intensive Care Medicine.

Interventions

Questionnaire inquiring about ICU structure and organization mailed to 73 medical directors. Level of monitoring, intravenous medications, and physiological variables were proposed as elements of discharge decision. Five clinical situations were presented with request to assign a discharge disposition.

Measurements and results

Fifty-five ICUs participated, representing 75% of adult Swiss ICUs. Responsibility for patient management was assigned in 91% to the ICU team directing patient care. Only 22% of responding centers used written discharge guidelines. One-half of the respondents considered at least 10 of 15 proposed criteria to decide patient discharge. ICUs in central referral hospitals used fewer criteria than community and private hospitals. The availability of intermediate care units was significantly greater in university hospitals. The ICU director’s level of experience was not associated with the number of criteria used. In the five clinical scenarios there was wide variation in discharge decision.

Conclusions

Our data indicate that there is marked heterogeneity in ICUs discharge practices, and that discharge decisions may be influenced by institutional factors. University teaching hospitals had more intermediate care facilities available. Written discharge guidelines were not widely used.

This work was performed in the Division of Surgical Intensive Care, Department of Anesthesia, Pharmacology, and Surgical Intensive Care, University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland
Members of the Swiss ICU Network are listed in the Acknowledgments