, Volume 38, Issue 10, pp 1683-1688
Date: 23 May 2012

Safety of nicotine replacement therapy in critically ill smokers: a retrospective cohort study

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been used to ameliorate nicotine withdrawal in the intensive care unit (ICU). Previous cohort studies have suggested an increased mortality with NRT use: methodological problems may call into question the validity of these findings. We undertook a retrospective cohort study to determine if NRT use was associated with adverse outcomes.


This retrospective cohort study was conducted in a 30-bed, university affiliated, teaching hospital ICU.


We identified 423 smokers admitted over 2 years, of whom 73 received transdermal NRT. Cox proportional hazard regression models, with NRT modelled as a time-varying covariate, were used to test the hypothesis that NRT was associated with an altered ICU or hospital mortality. A second analysis utilized propensity scores. The unadjusted ICU and hospital mortalities were lower for the NRT group; although both differences were non-significant. The Cox models showed that, after adjustment for APACHE risk, age, sex and alcohol use, risk associated with NRT administration was not statistically different than non-administration for both ICU (hazard ratio 0.50, [95 % CI 0.20–1.24], p = 0.14) and hospital (hazard ratio 0.95, [95 % CI 0.52–1.75], p = 0.88) mortality. Similar findings occurred with the propensity matched analysis.


We were unable to demonstrate any harm associated with NRT, with the ICU model actually trending towards benefit. We conclude that a randomised, blinded, placebo controlled trial is required to assess adequately the safety and efficacy of NRT as a treatment in critically ill smokers.