Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 44, Issue 12, pp 2122–2133 | Cite as

Relationship between height and outcomes among critically ill adults: a cohort study

  • Emily A. Vail
  • David A. Harrison
  • Hannah WunschEmail author



Many diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for critically ill adult patients are not performed according to patient size, but are standardized for an idealized 174-cm man (ideal body weight 70 kg). This study aims to determine whether critically ill patients with heights significantly different from a standardized patient have higher hospital mortality or greater resource utilization.


Retrospective cohort study of consecutive patients admitted to 210 intensive care units (ICUs) in the United Kingdom participating in the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre’s Case Mix Programme Database from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2015. Primary outcome was hospital mortality, adjusted for age, comorbid disease, severity of illness, socioeconomic status and body mass index, using hierarchical modeling to account for clustering by ICU. Data were stratified by sex, and the effect of height was modeled continuously using restricted cubic splines.


The cohort included 233,308 men and 184,070 women, with overall hospital mortality of 22.5% and 20.6%, respectively. After adjustment for potential confounders, hospital mortality decreased with increasing height; predicted mortality (holding all other covariates at their mean value) decreased from 24.1 to 17.1% for women and from 29.2 to 21.0% for men across the range of heights. Similar patterns were observed for ICU mortality and several additional secondary outcomes.


Short stature may be a risk factor for mortality in critically ill patients. Further work is needed to determine which unmeasured patient characteristics and processes of care may contribute to the increased risk observed.


Critical care Mortality Length of stay Stature 


Author contributions

Study design (DH, EV, HW), data analysis (DH, HW), manuscript preparation (DH, EV, HW). All authors gave final approval for the submitted manuscript and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.


Columbia University Irving Scholars Program (to HW). The funders had no role in study design, conduct or approval of the finished manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

134_2018_5441_MOESM1_ESM.docx (124 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 124 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature and ESICM 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily A. Vail
    • 1
  • David A. Harrison
    • 2
  • Hannah Wunsch
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of Texas Health San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Intensive Care National Audit and Research CentreLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Critical Care MedicineSunnybrook HospitalTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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